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Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials

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Six Women of Salem is the first work to use the lives of a select number of representative women as a microcosm to illuminate the larger crisis of the Salem witch trials. By the end of the trials, beyond the twenty who were executed and the five who perished in prison, 207 individuals had been accused, 74 had been "afflicted", 32 had officially accused their fellow neighbo Six Women of Salem is the first work to use the lives of a select number of representative women as a microcosm to illuminate the larger crisis of the Salem witch trials. By the end of the trials, beyond the twenty who were executed and the five who perished in prison, 207 individuals had been accused, 74 had been "afflicted", 32 had officially accused their fellow neighbors, and 255 ordinary people had been inexorably drawn into that ruinous and murderous vortex, and this doesn’t include the religious, judicial, and governmental leaders. All this adds up to what the Rev. Cotton Mather called "a desolation of names." The individuals involved are too often reduced to stock characters and stereotypes when accuracy is sacrificed to indignation. And although the flood of names and detail in the history of an extraordinary event like the Salem witch trials can swamp the individual lives involved, individuals still deserve to be remembered and, in remembering specific lives, modern readers can benefit from such historical intimacy. By examining the lives of six specific women, Marilynne Roach shows readers what it was like to be present throughout this horrific time and how it was impossible to live through it unchanged.


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Six Women of Salem is the first work to use the lives of a select number of representative women as a microcosm to illuminate the larger crisis of the Salem witch trials. By the end of the trials, beyond the twenty who were executed and the five who perished in prison, 207 individuals had been accused, 74 had been "afflicted", 32 had officially accused their fellow neighbo Six Women of Salem is the first work to use the lives of a select number of representative women as a microcosm to illuminate the larger crisis of the Salem witch trials. By the end of the trials, beyond the twenty who were executed and the five who perished in prison, 207 individuals had been accused, 74 had been "afflicted", 32 had officially accused their fellow neighbors, and 255 ordinary people had been inexorably drawn into that ruinous and murderous vortex, and this doesn’t include the religious, judicial, and governmental leaders. All this adds up to what the Rev. Cotton Mather called "a desolation of names." The individuals involved are too often reduced to stock characters and stereotypes when accuracy is sacrificed to indignation. And although the flood of names and detail in the history of an extraordinary event like the Salem witch trials can swamp the individual lives involved, individuals still deserve to be remembered and, in remembering specific lives, modern readers can benefit from such historical intimacy. By examining the lives of six specific women, Marilynne Roach shows readers what it was like to be present throughout this horrific time and how it was impossible to live through it unchanged.

30 review for Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials by Marilynne K. Roach is a 2013 De Capo Press publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is a non- fictional account of six of the most commonly known people mentioned during the Salem Witch Trials. With the unique idea of spotlighting the accused and the accusers as well one that fell into both categories, the book detail Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials by Marilynne K. Roach is a 2013 De Capo Press publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is a non- fictional account of six of the most commonly known people mentioned during the Salem Witch Trials. With the unique idea of spotlighting the accused and the accusers as well one that fell into both categories, the book details the personal lives of those involved and outlines the type of thinking and superstitions of the era. A short story written in italics begins each chapter and those short pieces are fictional. However, the trials are at the core of the book and most of focus in on this area of history. The first part of the book is a little dry with a lot of dates and genealogy which could be very interesting for hardcore history enthusiast. For those who would rather just get to the juicy parts, you really could skip over part one and start on part two. From that point on, the story flows much easier and is very interesting. I have always found this period of time fascinating and I keep my eyes peeled for books that are reputable and well researched that deal with this topic. It is very clear this author wanted to move away from the Hollywood themes and did an incredible amount of research. I don't know if I have read an account like this one before. So much focus is on the girls making the accusations, the reasons why they made them, and the absolute hysteria that followed, that the trial only got a cursory glance. It is hard for many of us to read history books that are written in this manner. I wonder if the author added the brief fictional stories in an effort to offset the classroom history format the rest of the book contained. It can get a little dull at times and it has taken me a while to get through this one, but it was revealing and very educational. I just put it down and read something else for a day or so and then I would pick it back up. I do wish more books were written on this subject had less of the "Crucible" type emphasis. This is such a strange time in our history and it's still so shocking. I would like to say we learned something from The Salem Witch Trials, but sadly it seems history has repeated itself in one form or another in this same way. 4 stars * Netgalley

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    For the author, no doubt this book is a great achievement, the culmination of a lengthy period of research. It is in respect for this hard work and sheer scholarship that I award 'Six Women of Salem' two stars rather than one. What a shame that this book is pretty much unreadable. The main problem is that Roach has seemingly not omitted any historical detail, with the result that the text is unfocused and lacks a coherent narrative. Take the first part, the introduction section containing biograp For the author, no doubt this book is a great achievement, the culmination of a lengthy period of research. It is in respect for this hard work and sheer scholarship that I award 'Six Women of Salem' two stars rather than one. What a shame that this book is pretty much unreadable. The main problem is that Roach has seemingly not omitted any historical detail, with the result that the text is unfocused and lacks a coherent narrative. Take the first part, the introduction section containing biographies of each of the six eponymous women up to the time of the witch trials. In fact, Roach spends more time discussing everybody but these women - their extended families going back three generations, friends of the family, business partners, masters and mistresses... The sheer number of unnecessarily mentioned characters quickly becomes extremely confusing, especially as many of the people mentioned share the same name (I lost count of the number of Elizabeths). The section is bogged down with superfluous detail, such as the birth dates of siblings and alternative spellings of surnames, that it reads more like a dense genealogy than an introduction to these people as humans. I ended up skimming most of the main body of the book, concerning the trials themselves. I had hoped the book would give me a good background to the trials - the underlying social, political and religious motives, the personal ordeals of accused and accusers - but instead, all I got was lots of conjecture mixed in with details formed in large part from a collection of unearthed courtroom documents, many of which are quoted at length. It should also be noted that the six main characters become lost in a confusing sea of other names, dozens of other accused and accusers, rendering the intended structure of the book redundant. Crucially, Roach offers scant analysis of the extraordinary events she writes about - the true nature of the violent fits and torments of the 'afflicted girls' is dismissed with a shrug, and there is little psychological insight into the motives of certain characters who actually confessed to witchcraft. This book was therefore a sore disappointment, and I will probably turn to another book to educate myself about witch trials (I've been eyeing up "Witches: James I and the English Witch Hunts" by Tracy Borman). Unless you are extremely interested in a dry, blow-by-blow account of colonial courtroom episodes, steer clear of this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mauoijenn

    This was an excellent book and an intimate look into the times and people involved in the Salem Witch Trials. I rather enjoyed reading and learning more about this historic time.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    The search for the book about the Salem witch trials that only seems to exist in my head continues! I do not know if I will ever find a book about this subject that will give me what I'm looking for. I don't know if one exists, or if it is even possible for one to exist. This book came the closest so far, but it didn't make the cut in the end. Here is what I want: 1. A book that is informative without drowning the reader in information, and that doesn't relate the same types of incidents over and The search for the book about the Salem witch trials that only seems to exist in my head continues! I do not know if I will ever find a book about this subject that will give me what I'm looking for. I don't know if one exists, or if it is even possible for one to exist. This book came the closest so far, but it didn't make the cut in the end. Here is what I want: 1. A book that is informative without drowning the reader in information, and that doesn't relate the same types of incidents over and over again in repetitive detail, in the cause of historical accuracy, as this book did. There must be at least one hundred incidences in here where we have watch an accused witch do nothing while her/his supposed victims shriek that they are being tormented and pinched and threatened with the Devil's book. It got old. Roach also takes us through everything that happened, basically, which is informative from a historical perspective, but not super thrilling to read about. I want a book with a compelling narrative, that gives me just the right amount of information. I feel like that's not too much to ask for? 2. Historical context. This book actually did this pretty well, explaining some things in the light of the contemporary beliefs of the people participating in this part of history. But it didn't give me enough, because Roach was so focused on detailing the minutiae of what actually happened. 3. Historical analysis and theories. Again, there was some of this, inserted haphazardly throughout the book, when Roach had an educated guess about some specific thing. But there was no broad, unifying theorizing going on about what caused these trials to happen, and people to act as they did. That is the meat of what I'm looking for in a book about this subject. Hell, in a book about any event in history, this is what I want. 4. I want the historical figures to be humanized. And this book actually does this very, very well. Since it was the main impetus behind writing it, this isn't so much of a surprise. By focusing on the six women, and the people immediately surrounding them, Roach grounds the events and makes them more relatable. She also makes the stylistic choice to imagine individual moments in each woman's life as important events were occurring. Some of the meatiest info in the book was in these supposed "imagined" sections, because you can read into them what Roach really thinks was going on in their heads. So to sum up, a very informative and detailed book, clearly written. A bit bogged down in repetitive actions. Lacking in historical analysis. Worth reading if you have an interest in this subject, but not if you are a casual reader.

  5. 4 out of 5

    ☕Laura

    I thought the concept of this book was promising: telling the story of the Salem Witch Trials through the stories of six women who figured prominently on both sides. Unfortunately, I didn't feel the book delivered on this promise. Too much information was included, leaving the book, in my opinion, without the clear focus that was intended. I think this book would have benefited from a heavier dose of editing. As it was, it amounted to fairly dry reading experience. I thought the concept of this book was promising: telling the story of the Salem Witch Trials through the stories of six women who figured prominently on both sides. Unfortunately, I didn't feel the book delivered on this promise. Too much information was included, leaving the book, in my opinion, without the clear focus that was intended. I think this book would have benefited from a heavier dose of editing. As it was, it amounted to fairly dry reading experience.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Disclaimer: Read via uncorrected ARC via Netgalley. 3.5-4 I’m not sure how most people learn about the Salem Witchcraft trials today, at least here in America. In my city, most of us learn about in brief by the reading of Miller’s The Crucible, which means they are always linked, for better or worse to the McCarthy Hearings. So it is somewhat disconcerting to read a book that does not look at them the same way that most high school teachers teach it. Roach focuses on six women – three accusers an Disclaimer: Read via uncorrected ARC via Netgalley. 3.5-4 I’m not sure how most people learn about the Salem Witchcraft trials today, at least here in America. In my city, most of us learn about in brief by the reading of Miller’s The Crucible, which means they are always linked, for better or worse to the McCarthy Hearings. So it is somewhat disconcerting to read a book that does not look at them the same way that most high school teachers teach it. Roach focuses on six women – three accusers and three accused. To use the word victim to only describe those accused of being witches, in particular when Tituba is in both categories. Roach uses these six women as focal points to explore the more of the actual trial and outcome than anything else. The reasons for the accusations are looked at but not as in much depth, in general, that the rest are. It should be noted that the actual history narrative is somewhat dry. In fairness to Roach, she does seem to realize this. Each section, chapter, is introduced by an exercise into what the people, usually the women, might have thought. This fictional writing is very strong and made me want to check to see it Roach had written any fiction - she hasn’t, but if she every does, I’m checking it out. These fictional sections are set apart by italics and do not run very long. I should note that such bits in a history book usually annoy me; they didn’t here. The parts of the book that I found the most interesting were the sections that dealt with Mary English and her escape as well as the sections about Tituba. In fact, it is in writing about the most famous yet least known woman of this story that Roach really shines. She examines where Tituba meant have come from, who she meant of been, and what her family life might have been like. This is furthered by the enclosed of the story another slave a woman who is also in jail, able for a different charge. I also found the bit about how people escaped or avoided charges to be fascinating, most likely because my teachers never mentioned it, and it wasn’t something I knew before reading this book. Another strong point of the book is Roach’s use of sympathy. Instead of trying to demonize the accusers, Roach humanizes them. It is impossible to feel hate towards Ann Putman or Mary Warren, even though their actions led to the deaths of people. If anything, all the women were victims of the society that they lived in or, perhaps, as Marilyn French would claim – victims of the men that controlled that society. A worthwhile read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tori

    Through family history, I have found 80 (yes, EIGHTY-- in a town of about 600) different people in my family that lived in Salem during the time of the Witch Trials. I keep hoping to find mention of them in someone's research, but unfortunately, I have found very little. What I did find in this book was a better understanding of what was actually happening. The beginning is full of (somewhat tedious) facts, but then it gets more interesting as Roach delves into the lives of six particular women. Through family history, I have found 80 (yes, EIGHTY-- in a town of about 600) different people in my family that lived in Salem during the time of the Witch Trials. I keep hoping to find mention of them in someone's research, but unfortunately, I have found very little. What I did find in this book was a better understanding of what was actually happening. The beginning is full of (somewhat tedious) facts, but then it gets more interesting as Roach delves into the lives of six particular women. I appreciated her humanizing approach. She didn't just regurgitate facts or put extremely large diary entries into the text. It was well written and very well researched. A great read for anyone who enjoys non-fictional account of this time period. Thanks, Net Galley for the advance read!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tim Doughty

    Every American bears the responsibility for learning about the Salem witch trials, that shameful yet fascinating stain on our national history. No satisfactory explanation has yet been found to explain why at first a young girl, then other children, then adults -- eventually over 70 in all -- should collapse in fits and convulsions and claim to be tormented by the spirits of their neighbors, in an increasing chain-reaction of fear and panic early in1692. Court documents make it clear that to be Every American bears the responsibility for learning about the Salem witch trials, that shameful yet fascinating stain on our national history. No satisfactory explanation has yet been found to explain why at first a young girl, then other children, then adults -- eventually over 70 in all -- should collapse in fits and convulsions and claim to be tormented by the spirits of their neighbors, in an increasing chain-reaction of fear and panic early in1692. Court documents make it clear that to be accused was to be guilty. Many of the accused, harangued and beaten down by the interrogations, freely confessed, then went on to join the accusers in naming other "witches". The sense of horror I felt while reading the accounts was equal to anything that Stephen King has produced in me. It is one of the saddest books I have ever read. As a writer, Marilynne Roach is dry. Which is a shame because she desperately wants to bring these people to life: to depart from the stereotypes and present them as "individuals -- people with real stories, real lives, real suffering and real deaths". Part of the problem is that she omits no detail. In addition to the characters themselves we also hear about their brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, etc. The flood of names is bewildering. It's not an easy read and that's why I gave it only 4 stars. Yet read it you should. I will read it again and again, as a reminder and as a memorial to those poor souls.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jillyn

    Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials delivers exactly what the title promises. Roach focuses on the witch trials of (arguably) the six most famous women of Salem: Tituba, Rebecca Nurse, Ann Putnam, Mary Warren, Bridget Bishop, and Mary English. The groups is a mixture of the accused and those doing the accusing. I think this is a great book for someone who already has an interest in history or specifically the Salem witch trials. Because Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials delivers exactly what the title promises. Roach focuses on the witch trials of (arguably) the six most famous women of Salem: Tituba, Rebecca Nurse, Ann Putnam, Mary Warren, Bridget Bishop, and Mary English. The groups is a mixture of the accused and those doing the accusing. I think this is a great book for someone who already has an interest in history or specifically the Salem witch trials. Because of the nature of the topic, there are a lot of dates, connections, and courtroom talk that does give this book a "textbook" type feel throughout. But it's all relevant if not important information that paints a more detailed picture of this point in our country's history. One thing that really helped to break up this sometimes monotonous book was the use of fiction. At the start of introductions of characters and throughout the book, there are short fictional passages of how their life could have been like. This writing was really detailed and dramatic- I'd actually be happy to read a fiction book set in Salem if Roach ever decides to publish one. All in all, this book is chock full of information and offers new insight into these trials. Historians and those with an interest in Salem would find this book particularly helpful. To those who have no prior history or interest in this subject, this book throws a lot of information at you and is a bit dry in parts. Because I study Salem in my free time, I found this to be a solid and informative read. Thanks to Netgalley and Da Capo Press for my copy. This review can also be found on my blog, Bitches n Prose.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ionia

    This is an interesting book and would be particularly interesting for someone who is not familiar already with the way the witch trials came to be and the history of the cases. The only complaint I have with this book, is that during the first few chapters, there is a lot of set up and dates, family lineage and explanation to wade through before actually getting to the more interesting and easily flowing part of the book. Whilst this may not bother the more studious types, I do think that as a r This is an interesting book and would be particularly interesting for someone who is not familiar already with the way the witch trials came to be and the history of the cases. The only complaint I have with this book, is that during the first few chapters, there is a lot of set up and dates, family lineage and explanation to wade through before actually getting to the more interesting and easily flowing part of the book. Whilst this may not bother the more studious types, I do think that as a rule of the average person looking for something interesting to read, this might come across as a bit mundane. Once this book got moving, I enjoyed the way the author used the collected information to tell the story of these individual women and what they suffered through. This writing had a much more personal feel than many accounts of the same events. This was a book that I found both taught me some new things and refreshed my memory on other things. Overall, this was worth the time to read. The author was proficient in fact checking and arranging this in a way that made it fun to read and encouraged me to keep turning pages. I would feel comfortable recommending this to teachers and others who are interested in the subject matter. This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher in cooperation with Netgalley.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jamee Zielke

    Six Women of Salem is purported to be the story of six actual women from Salem during the infamous witch trials of the late 1600s. The women include both accused and accusers. Sounds really interesting, doesn't it? Nope It could be if handled differently, but not in this book. Part One profiles the "six women" in excruciating detail. And quite a few people they knew or may have known. And minute details a the author found about them in her research. Such as the number of rooms on each floor of the Six Women of Salem is purported to be the story of six actual women from Salem during the infamous witch trials of the late 1600s. The women include both accused and accusers. Sounds really interesting, doesn't it? Nope It could be if handled differently, but not in this book. Part One profiles the "six women" in excruciating detail. And quite a few people they knew or may have known. And minute details a the author found about them in her research. Such as the number of rooms on each floor of their house or the measurements of specific buildings. Because the author evidentially thought that knowing that "Prudence" attended a church that was 24 feet by 16 feet is essential to understanding what happened during the witch trials. Nope Part Two is quite a bit more interesting, but still pretty dull. In this part, the author throws in the stories of a couple dozen more people making it hard to keep track of who is who. She doesn't include any kind of visual "family tree" or "cast of characters" to refer to, so the reader can't flip back to that to keep up with all the players in this account. She does, however, share drawings she made of how some of the women's husband's land was divided among their children. She also shares plenty of quoted source material in the original syntax. Hard to read and thus uninteresting. Oddly, she also chose to write her imaginings of scenes at the beginning and end of each chapter, including the thought process of varying members of the "six women". They did bring the story to life a little, but the author is pretty charitable to the two accusers she chose to profile. I suppose that's pretty thoughtful as no one really knows what motivated the accusers to do what they did. I can't imagine it's because the accused were actual witches, but that doesn't mean that the accusers had the motives assigned to them by the author. Shrug, I found it odd in a book that otherwise was a fact vomit of everything, no matter how irrelevant to the topic of the book. Part Three is a brief "update" on each of the six women. Since the author was (obviously) limited to what she could find regarding the women, and there's so little attention during that time paid to women, it's brief and focused on their husbands for the most part. Would I recommend this book? Nope

  12. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    (Kindle) Six women: Rebecca Nurse, Bridget Bishop, Mary English, Ann Putnam Sr., Tituba, and Mary Warren. I'm currently doing genealogy research and have found direct connections to both convicted witches and a juror that convicted them. In that context, I've been seeking out fact sourced resources that can enlighten what exactly was happening in Salem at this time. This book is excellently sourced. Roach must be the leading scholar in this field. There are some fictionalized narratives to start so (Kindle) Six women: Rebecca Nurse, Bridget Bishop, Mary English, Ann Putnam Sr., Tituba, and Mary Warren. I'm currently doing genealogy research and have found direct connections to both convicted witches and a juror that convicted them. In that context, I've been seeking out fact sourced resources that can enlighten what exactly was happening in Salem at this time. This book is excellently sourced. Roach must be the leading scholar in this field. There are some fictionalized narratives to start some sections, but those are clearly indicated with italics. The amount of first person accounts is astonishing. That Roach has been through so much of it and edited details into a clear accounting for six of the most famous women involved is a blessing. Of note, Mary Warren was John and Elizabeth Protor's servant. Age 18 at the start of the trials she renounces her accusations, is then accused of being a witch herself. Much documentation on Mary Warren and the Proctors in this book. You're not going to get Hocus Pocus here. This is far more interesting. RECOMMEND

  13. 5 out of 5

    Melisende

    Having read "The Crucible" this only enhanced the reading experience with so much more information being provided on some of the main characters. You always wonder where these women started out and what happened after the trials, especially to the families of the victims and those that survived. Having read "The Crucible" this only enhanced the reading experience with so much more information being provided on some of the main characters. You always wonder where these women started out and what happened after the trials, especially to the families of the victims and those that survived.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bea Pires

    I picked up this book because, immediately, I was sold on its premise: actually fleshing out and giving life to those names that we all already heard about, from the Salem witch trials, and showing that they were actual people, with actual, real lives and motivations, that were dragged into the most horrific event that could have possible happened to them, within the social context of their time. In the end, though, I was disappointed to find that I had a hard time even managing to finish the bo I picked up this book because, immediately, I was sold on its premise: actually fleshing out and giving life to those names that we all already heard about, from the Salem witch trials, and showing that they were actual people, with actual, real lives and motivations, that were dragged into the most horrific event that could have possible happened to them, within the social context of their time. In the end, though, I was disappointed to find that I had a hard time even managing to finish the book... Roach's approach is definitely an interesting one, choosing 6 stand out women that were involved in this affair and, by telling their individual stories, show the reader the whole social event that were the trials. Unfortunately, I don't feel like that was done successfully. During the text, you know, from the writer's own words, that the focus should be on six particular ladies, but so many others end up also being talked about and discussed that I, personally, had a really hard time keeping up with all the names. To give these women a more personal feel, Roach often included small introductions that differed from the factual tone of the book, into the fictional. While this attempt at framing their state of mind and day to day life was at times charming and interesting, I also occasionally found it unnecessary and very badly done, specially when regarding personalities like that of Tituba, the coloured slave. It is not as obvious with the other women involved, perhaps because there are more records of their lives and situations to draw from, but seeing the author attempt to put the thoughts of Tituba onto paper was cringe-worthy, at best. The guessing work in there was very noticeable and her situation seemed painfully romanticised, to the point of it being almost offensive, given the fact that slavery and racism were very much in place, with her personal situation. Another issue that really bugged me, was the constant repetition of some sentences. For example, every single time Roach referred to Governor Phips, there was that soundbite, of him being Philip English's "great enemy", and so on. That could have been an interesting addition, to help readers better recognize him, with the text, if done a couple of times, but by the tenth or eleventh, I was pretty much rolling my eyes at the text. My final issue with this volume was just with the general tone of it, that seemed, at times, to be somewhat bipolar. I believe the writer attempted to remain neutral but ended slipping a lot, in her tone, either offering a sympathetic view of the accused and, so, pointing toward the guilt of the accusers or just completely changing her mind and, then, presenting the accusers as guiltless. Personal opinions on the matter aside, it would just be preferable if she had picked one side or successfully kept her neutrality because all the changing of opinions made for one hell of an uncomfortable ethical rollercoaster. Overall, if you ignore the bad, this is still an interesting book, that makes use of truly a lot of original texts, taken from actuals accounts of the situation, written as it happened so, if you'll looking for a really in depth view of the trials, this is certainly a book to keep in mind! (I was offered a copy of this book by Netgalley and Da Capo Press. Thank you so much, guys!)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bert Edens

    From my book review blog at: http://kickinbooks.wordpress.com/2013... Many thanks to Perseus Books Group / Da Capo Press for providing this eGalley to me through NetGalley. Although it was provided at no cost, I am under no obligation to give a positive review. Growing up, I was very fortunate to have my maternal grandmother and her husband work in the tourism industry in Williamsburg, Virginia. I got an early exposure to colonial America to go along with my always strong love of history in general From my book review blog at: http://kickinbooks.wordpress.com/2013... Many thanks to Perseus Books Group / Da Capo Press for providing this eGalley to me through NetGalley. Although it was provided at no cost, I am under no obligation to give a positive review. Growing up, I was very fortunate to have my maternal grandmother and her husband work in the tourism industry in Williamsburg, Virginia. I got an early exposure to colonial America to go along with my always strong love of history in general. Naturally, I have also been interested in the happenings in Salem, Massachusetts, knowing it can be very difficult to separate fact from fiction from urban legend. Enter this wonderful book by Marilynne K. Roach. It should be noted before beginning that this is not Roach’s first rodeo when it comes to scholarly work on the Salem witch trials. She’s well-respected in that area as a quick Google search will reveal. That said, what Roach brings to the table with this offering is humanization of the accused as well as providing a smaller scope of the trials. Rather than looking at the trials in a larger overview, she takes six women accused of being witches and gets into extraordinary detail about their lives. With each woman, she digs into their family, genealogy and the events surrounding the accusations against them and subsequent trial. This works very well to humanize the accused, as you can see them as individual persons, not just numbers or statistics. Additionally, Roach makes an effort to get into each woman’s head to try and see the happenings through their eyes. This further brings the subject to a more personal level. The only downside of the book is that it does get tedious at times. It took me a bit before I really got rolling, once I finished the first woman’s story. Then I got into a flow with the remaining stories. But considering this is first and foremost a scholarly / academic work, not a piece of fiction, I am perfectly willing to sacrifice a fun read for a historically accurate read. In that, Roach is outstanding. I definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in history, be it Colonial America, women’s studies, witchcraft, law, whatever. It certainly seems to be very well done. Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jacob O'connor

    This was not what I was expecting. Christians have not been less popular since we were lunch for lions, and I bought this book prepared for a sarcastic reminder of the sins of the church. I was pleasantly surprised by Roach's objectivity and fairness. Don't get me wrong, this was easily the American Church's (although not quite America yet) darkest hour. Roach describes in meticulous detail the nightmare the accused went through, and to be accused was to be set on a path to probable death. Some This was not what I was expecting. Christians have not been less popular since we were lunch for lions, and I bought this book prepared for a sarcastic reminder of the sins of the church. I was pleasantly surprised by Roach's objectivity and fairness. Don't get me wrong, this was easily the American Church's (although not quite America yet) darkest hour. Roach describes in meticulous detail the nightmare the accused went through, and to be accused was to be set on a path to probable death. Some things that took me by surprise It wasn't a question of whether witchcraft was a problem. It was universally accepted that something was going on. Even the accused agreed to that. We're so used to judging history according to a modern mindset, but for the puritans witchcraft was a a serious menace. The biggest failure of the court system was to protect the accused with representation. They were effectively badgered until they confessed. However, the proceedings were more rigorous than I expected. It was a trial by peers, and the investigations were legitimate. You'd get the idea that thousands were slaughtered during the witch trials based on the way it's taught in school. Even one innocent person executed is too many, but the hysteria was actually quite focused. And the lessons were learned immediately. The jurisprudence was corrected as soon as the hysteria subsided, particularly with regard to using "spectral evidence". Most shocking was how Roach handled the actual witchcraft phenomena. Apparently something was going on that demands an explanation, even if just the power of suggestion. I definitely recommend the book to anyone curious about the Salem Witch Trials. I may go on to read some commentary. I'm curious how historians account for the mania.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    My rating for this is really about 3.5 stars. I had hoped to learn more than I did when reading this, only to find that many of the transcripts and actual historical records have disappeared and are unavailable. That's not the author's fault, but still, I felt like most of the book was just spoiled little girls accusing their neighbors and their parents' enemies of being witches. It just kept going! I'm sure that was also frustrating for the law-abiding, devout residents of Salem in 1692. I'd ho My rating for this is really about 3.5 stars. I had hoped to learn more than I did when reading this, only to find that many of the transcripts and actual historical records have disappeared and are unavailable. That's not the author's fault, but still, I felt like most of the book was just spoiled little girls accusing their neighbors and their parents' enemies of being witches. It just kept going! I'm sure that was also frustrating for the law-abiding, devout residents of Salem in 1692. I'd hoped the trials themselves, or more information about how the women handled themselves and the accusations, would be the focus of the book. I know there probably isn't a great record of these things, but I really didn't feel like I learned much beyond what I knew from high school. The introduction section was pretty slow, but the rest of it was interesting, even if it wasn't what I expected. Every time Ann Putnam (Jr. or Sr.) was mentioned, I cringed. These two created so much trouble! I find it hard to believe Ann Sr. could really, honestly think all of these people were witches, and at some point, Ann Jr. had to know the "fits" she was having weren't caused by the specters that she claimed to see, but rather by her own hysteria. These two are basically the worst! I can understand Mary Warren and Tituba being more confused and doing what they thought people wanted them to do, but the Putnams really should have known better. This was an interesting glimpse into an area of history I haven't much studied, but again, I do wish there had been more factual information about the trials and hearings.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This was a good book, but I feel as though the author could have maybe left out some of the detail. A bit too much information, but did give me an understanding of the trials that I didn't possess before. This was a good book, but I feel as though the author could have maybe left out some of the detail. A bit too much information, but did give me an understanding of the trials that I didn't possess before.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Gallagher

    'Six Women of Salem' chose an interesting take on the women persecuted under the Salem Witch Trials. Roach first looked at participants from a genealogical perspective, documenting the relationships between the accused, afflicted, and other villagers, and then fell into the common use of court proceedings and eyewitness accounts to fill in the actual trial details. As much as I felt the genealogical story was a nice touch, it fell flat. My rating is mid range because parts of the book did peak m 'Six Women of Salem' chose an interesting take on the women persecuted under the Salem Witch Trials. Roach first looked at participants from a genealogical perspective, documenting the relationships between the accused, afflicted, and other villagers, and then fell into the common use of court proceedings and eyewitness accounts to fill in the actual trial details. As much as I felt the genealogical story was a nice touch, it fell flat. My rating is mid range because parts of the book did peak my interest or show me a new way of considering the Salem women's evidence. Overall, it felt either extremely procedural or created many what-if scenarios. As an academically-trained historian, this bothered me very much. It became more like historical fiction rather than an in-depth historical account. Roach tries to get into the mind of six women from a variety of roles in the trials: Tituba, Ann Putnam Sr., Mary Warren, Bridget Bishop, Rebecca Nurse, and Mary English were picked to explore. The concept sounds great, but by the time the trials are covered, these women were brushed to the side while the lists of witnesses, accused, and people in the audience piled up. It had so much potential, and yet... I don't think it deserves a reread in the future. It feels like Roach lost focus of her six women in the chaos of the trials.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Johnson

    I picked up this book wanting to know more about the Salem Witch Trials. Six Women of Salem does not disappoint in terms of information. There is so much written and it's clearly thoroughly researched, but the dryness of the text really made it hard for me to enjoy the book. The beginning explanation of the six woman was very hard to get through because it was hard to follow all the names and who did what and when. Once the book moved into the actual story of the accusations and the following tr I picked up this book wanting to know more about the Salem Witch Trials. Six Women of Salem does not disappoint in terms of information. There is so much written and it's clearly thoroughly researched, but the dryness of the text really made it hard for me to enjoy the book. The beginning explanation of the six woman was very hard to get through because it was hard to follow all the names and who did what and when. Once the book moved into the actual story of the accusations and the following trials it was a little easier to read, but still had a text book style to it. One takeaway for me, was how insane that time period must have been if you lived through it. It was hard enough to settle the colonies and try to live in a new world, but then to have so much fear and paranoia surrounding you at the same time, must have been overwhelming for some. Reading through the accusations and the descriptions of how the affected acted, it's easy to see how fear and misunderstanding spread like wild fire. One event led to another and to another, until the whole thing snowballed into what we know as the Salem Witch Trials today. I would recommend this book to anyone who doesn't mind a text book style novel.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    I wanted to love this book. I’ve always found the Salem Witch Trials to be fascinating. Positive: This book was extremely well researched. This is also its downfall. I’m pretty sure the author introduced EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. who lived in Salem in 1692. And their families. Histories. The randos who came through town. I am all for getting the details and sharing them but my god. Some of these women, you will never know much about them due to time and what a woman’s position was back in those day I wanted to love this book. I’ve always found the Salem Witch Trials to be fascinating. Positive: This book was extremely well researched. This is also its downfall. I’m pretty sure the author introduced EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. who lived in Salem in 1692. And their families. Histories. The randos who came through town. I am all for getting the details and sharing them but my god. Some of these women, you will never know much about them due to time and what a woman’s position was back in those days. So the author tells you about their husband, their children, their in-laws, people who just happen across their property. It is so information dense. Probably too much information. It was a very long drawn out way to tell the story, and to me it really failed in that. A towns worth of people to track through this thing. Get out of here.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Denmark Flynn

    There are far more interesting ways of learning about the Salem witch trials. This book is bad and there is no narrative at all. Very scattered. I agree with the other reviewer who said this was virtually unreadable. I love this subject in history but this book is pretty awful. I was severely disappointed. Obviously just my opinion.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Janelle Janson

    I had to DNF this one. I have too many other books to read and this one isn’t grabbing me.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Story Circle Book Reviews

    In Six Women of Salem, author Marilynne K. Roach offers a detailed account of the famous witch trials through concurrent narratives of six women: Rebecca Nurse, Bridget Bishop, Mary English, Ann Putnam Sr., Tituba, and Mary Warren. These six were carefully chosen to represent not only accused and accusers but rich and poor, slave and free, servant and master. Through their various perspectives Roach recounts the events of 1692 in almost day-to-day detail—events which affected not only Salem but In Six Women of Salem, author Marilynne K. Roach offers a detailed account of the famous witch trials through concurrent narratives of six women: Rebecca Nurse, Bridget Bishop, Mary English, Ann Putnam Sr., Tituba, and Mary Warren. These six were carefully chosen to represent not only accused and accusers but rich and poor, slave and free, servant and master. Through their various perspectives Roach recounts the events of 1692 in almost day-to-day detail—events which affected not only Salem but over twenty communities nearby. The overall narrative is chronological with the author toggling between one viewpoint and another. Scholarly prose describing the events as they happened is preceded by fictionalized accounts of the viewpoint character which allows the author to speculate on what each woman was thinking and experiencing while maintaining historical accuracy. Roach is careful to make it clear when she is imagining what someone thought and when she is simply reporting relevant facts; she sets the fictionalized portions apart by italicizing the text. But as the author points out in the preface, even the fictionalized portions are based on careful research into the lives of these women and the climate, culture, politics, religion, relationships and geography that shaped them and the events they witnessed and participated in. The author's purpose is to help us see these women in cultural and historical perspective as real women whose experiences shaped history. The popular picture we have of the Salem witch trials has, as the author says, "...passed into American folklore as hardly believable events played out by incomprehensible characters...all of whom are portrayed as symbols and stereotypes rather than real people like ourselves." But understanding who these women were, what their hopes and fears were, what their circumstances and motivations helps us understand the Salem witch trials in more depth; it makes it all real. In the case of Tituba, for example, we learn what a slave like her might have experienced, details oft life on a slave ship, what living and working conditions would have been like on a Caribbean sugar plantation, what expectations she might have had to meet, what punishments she might have endured, and the overall tenuous place she had in her master's home. We learn of the political unrest, invasions by the French from Canada into New England,and fears that they would instigate a slave rebellion with promises of freedom for those who rose up against their New England masters and sided with the French. We come to understand Tituba not just as a woman falsely accusing others but as a woman afraid and in a dangerous, life-threatening situation in which she was not trusted. If she made things up to keep herself alive, the reader wonders, who could blame her? Roach's approach results is a kind of cross between textbook and creative nonfiction with the scholarly prose predominant. If a reader expects a good curl-up-in-front-of-the-fire story or a quick read, she will be disappointed. There is far too much information for a simple, straightforward narrative. But for those who want to really understand what happened in Salem in 1692, Roach's book is invaluable. by Lisa Shirah-Hiers for Story Circle Book Reviews reviewing books by, for, and about women

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gloria

    The story of the Salem witch trials is amazing, scary, cautionary, embarrassing, tragic, puzzling and enigmatic. We'll never know just how this happened and why. While this book contained tons of courtroom records which gave some insight into just how looney our forbears were - accepting testimony from people saying that the accused sent out their spectral selves to pinch and bite the afflicted, for example - it was just too dry to continue. There are fictionalized narratives interspersed through The story of the Salem witch trials is amazing, scary, cautionary, embarrassing, tragic, puzzling and enigmatic. We'll never know just how this happened and why. While this book contained tons of courtroom records which gave some insight into just how looney our forbears were - accepting testimony from people saying that the accused sent out their spectral selves to pinch and bite the afflicted, for example - it was just too dry to continue. There are fictionalized narratives interspersed throughout and those were excellent. I think that the author would do well to write a shorter fictionalized book incorporating the historical record and she'll have a stellar book that will engage - and horrify - readers and bring home the full impact of the real tragedy - that 20 innocent were outright murdered by the courts on the basis of false testimony that was impossible to prove. Comparing this primitive belief system to the Greek philosophers and scientists, one can only wonder what this pocket of aberrant behavior was all about. Power. The power of the slave Tituba and the afflicted girls to be seen and heard for the first time. To act out and shout and writhe in public in a society that repressed them into near invisibility. Greed. The holdings of many of the murdered witches ended up belonging to others. Funny how that happened. Fear. People had no idea how to protect themselves and their children from bad stuff happening. Once the fear of the witches spread, the superstitious trying to protect their families will buy in. *Disclaimer* Not all of these ideas were my own - I had the fun of joining a book club for a discussion and the smart ladies there discussed a lot of these ideas. I gave it two stars because the book didn't flow, the style changed from page to page, and the author didn't indicate that she had any theories as to how this blossom of evil appeared. She reproduced a lot of the courtroom testimony but she included so many people and their families that it was quite confusing. Bullet points and Cast of Character charts would have been VERY helpful and would have made the individual narratives much easier to untangle. Perhaps some of these flaws were fixed in the second half of the book - I don't know and I don't plan on finishing it. Kudos to the Women of Book Club who did! Full disclosure, I didn't finish the book and don't plan to.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Amy Lafleur Meyers

    I find the Salem Witch Trials both fascinating and horrifying, and thus looked forward to reading this book. Marilynne Roach looks at the events from a focus on six women involved, a mix of the accused and accusers. She focuses on these women and gives the reader background of these women and their families as well as the stories of what happened to them after the trials. Roach's research is extensive. This was far more information than I had previously heard about the women and their families a I find the Salem Witch Trials both fascinating and horrifying, and thus looked forward to reading this book. Marilynne Roach looks at the events from a focus on six women involved, a mix of the accused and accusers. She focuses on these women and gives the reader background of these women and their families as well as the stories of what happened to them after the trials. Roach's research is extensive. This was far more information than I had previously heard about the women and their families and gave some important background on connections that likely influenced the trials and accusations. Many other books focus on the accusations, trials, imprisonments, and hangings. Roach, on the other hand, recognizes that these events didn't occur in a vacuum and she tries to give readers a sense of outside events such as Native American attacks that would've give the villagers a likely sense of fear and uncertainty in their lives. This book was informative and yet mostly readable. Casual readers might a little overwhelmed by the book's length (at nearly 500 pages) and might struggle a bit to get through part 1, which leads up to the events of 1692-93. I had trouble keeping some of the family members' names straight and remembering how who was connected to who. The book becomes easier to read as the events start moving along and begins to read more like a story though with clear facts and research. Every so often, Roach includes brief sections in which she imagines some of the women's dialogue or feelings really giving the reader a well-rounded sense of events. This was well worth the read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    Roach's new book on the history of the Salem Witch Trials is incredibly thorough- something I both love and kind of hate about it. Her attention to detail is spectacular but at times overwhelming, and bogging the reader down with facts and names that make a complex and confusing moment in history only more so. Still, the concept and structure of the book is pretty genius and unique amongst non-fiction works. Brilliantly deciding to pick six threads to follow through this byzantine American trage Roach's new book on the history of the Salem Witch Trials is incredibly thorough- something I both love and kind of hate about it. Her attention to detail is spectacular but at times overwhelming, and bogging the reader down with facts and names that make a complex and confusing moment in history only more so. Still, the concept and structure of the book is pretty genius and unique amongst non-fiction works. Brilliantly deciding to pick six threads to follow through this byzantine American tragedy, Roach finds a way to tie everything back to six very different women who all played a key role in the witch trials- from ground zero victim Tituba, to first-to-die Bridget Bishop, to rich woman Mary English, accuser Ann Putnam, maidservant Mary Warren, and Christian martyr Rebecca Nurse. Interspersing the historical material with "novelized" sections that take a more historical fiction approach, Roach effectively builds personalities for each of the women and begins to unpack for you the psychology of the people at the time- which may ultimately be the only way we'll ever be able to understand how this all happened. Definitely not a light read and probably not a great intro for people who don't have some knowledge/understanding of the trials already under their belt, the book is most certainly a worthy effort and makes for a powerful if at times overwhelming read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    While Roach does provide interesting accounts of these six women's lives and grounds the reader firmly in 17th century New England, this is a tedious and sometimes confusing read, and the "fictionalized" sections compounds the problem. Some reviewers said they could not finish the book because of the dry prose. I did manage to finish, but it was a challenge to do so. I really wanted to move on to another book about halfway through, so in that regard, Roach wasn't able to hold my attention the wa While Roach does provide interesting accounts of these six women's lives and grounds the reader firmly in 17th century New England, this is a tedious and sometimes confusing read, and the "fictionalized" sections compounds the problem. Some reviewers said they could not finish the book because of the dry prose. I did manage to finish, but it was a challenge to do so. I really wanted to move on to another book about halfway through, so in that regard, Roach wasn't able to hold my attention the way other colonial histories have done. I was also looking for a little bit more analysis of witchcraft itself and why the "spectral" hysteria on that scale was more or less isolated to the Boston area in 1692. Roach stuck rigidly to the narrative of the six women and didn't provide much of a "big picture" look at the political and religious contexts of witchcraft at that time in history. All that said, I'm glad I gave the book a chance because I definitely learned a good deal about the accusers, the condemned and the afflicted, and I appreciate Roach's diligence in digging up all the old records to be able to compile such a detailed narrative.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Laura Baisas

    Excellent and unique read on the Salem With Trials. As with any good historical account, there were some dense and boring sections with so many similar sounding names to keep track of, but for the most part, this book was excellent. I enjoyed the blend of narrative and straight prose on the events of the courts, and appreciate how the author resisted the temptation to build on some of fictions surrounding this fascinating chapter of American history. It was also great to learn about six specific Excellent and unique read on the Salem With Trials. As with any good historical account, there were some dense and boring sections with so many similar sounding names to keep track of, but for the most part, this book was excellent. I enjoyed the blend of narrative and straight prose on the events of the courts, and appreciate how the author resisted the temptation to build on some of fictions surrounding this fascinating chapter of American history. It was also great to learn about six specific women on both sides of the trials, and all from very different backgrounds (primary socioeconomic, but also racially, since Tituba is one of the six). Awesome read!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bronwyn

    More like 3.5 stars, but I'll give it 4. Overall I enjoyed this, it just got so detail heavy I didn't want to read it, even though I enjoyed it when I did. It's definitely very comprehensive, and the author definitely knows a lot about the trials. A lot was repetitive and could have been cut, but it was still very interesting. More like 3.5 stars, but I'll give it 4. Overall I enjoyed this, it just got so detail heavy I didn't want to read it, even though I enjoyed it when I did. It's definitely very comprehensive, and the author definitely knows a lot about the trials. A lot was repetitive and could have been cut, but it was still very interesting.

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