Daughters of the Witching Hill



Set in Lancashire, England, during the infamous witch trials of 1612, DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL reveals the true story of Bess Southerns, aka Old Demdike, cunning woman, healer and the most notorious of the Pendle Witches, and of Alizon Device, her granddaughter, struggling to come to terms with her family’s troubling legacy. Though the name of the Pendle Witches lives on, few know the hard-hitting details of the witch-hunt which tore apart a community. Set in an era of religious intolerance, political strife, suspicion and social inequality, this haunting story of strong women and family love and betrayal is more relevant than ever.

An American expat who has lived in the Pendle region since 2002, Mary’s inspiration for the novel arose directly out of the wild, brooding landscape: the story of the Pendle Witches unfolded almost literally in her backyard.

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Book Excerpt | Reader’s Guide | Cast of Characters | Demdike’s Charms | Further Reading


Praise for Daughters of the Witching Hill


Daughters of the Witching Hill offers a fresh approach with witches who believe in their own power and yet, in many ways, are still innocent. Sharratt’s readers—like the magistrate who took the women’s confessions—are likely to be spellbound by their stories. —M.L. Johnson, AP, San Francisco Chronicle

Full of the reality of the day, this story is stark and real, but Sharratt’s descriptions of landscape and the daily life of the poor at the time are rich enough to feed the senses. The author weaves this vast canvas of changing culture into the personal stories of these women, and in the process transports us to a distant land, a distant time—and deep into the story of people we sympathize with and care about. —Linda White, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Sharratt successfully combines excellent historical detail, drama, and emotional accounts that blend beautifully into a vibrant story. Perfectly plotted, impressive, and full of tension, this is most assuredly a bewitching tale. Highly recommended. —Rebecca Roberts, Historical Novels Review, Editor’s Choice Pick

A breathless page turner … Daughters of the Witching Hill leads to any exciting conclusion, of course—the gory, dramatic horror of the witch trial—but when readers close the book, that’s amazingly not the part we remember. We come to know these ‘witches’ as people, skilled in herbal or even magical healing, yes, but also in demanding respect from others, and of themselves. —Kristen Thiel, Rain Taxi

Every time I picked this book up I was immediately transported to Pendle Forest and completely absorbed in the story of these women. . . . I encourage all to read this enchanting story. Bookbrowse.com, Editor’s Choice Pick

This book is a new approach to an old subject and will take you back to a time when innocence was lost because of fear, petty revenge and superstition. It will bewitch you. —Mary Daugherty, The News-Enterprise

Daughters of the Witching Hill is very different for Sharratt, yet just as rich and compelling as this author’s previous works. Bess and her clan live and breathe on the pages of Sharratt’s book—at least for a while—and we come away from the experience with a fresh view of what might really have happened in Lancashire in 1612. —Sienna Powers, January Magazine

This is first and foremost a story about strong women. . . . Mary Sharratt does a good job with the suspense built around the hunt and the minimal evidence needed to cry witch and hang a person at this time in history. —Amy Gwiazdowski, Bookreporter.com

The so-called witches in Mary Sharratt’s awe-ful novel—in which the reader is filled with awe at the courage of Mother Demdike and her family and neighbors—are cunning women who have the misfortune to live in the Protestant police state that we know as Elizabethan and Jacobean England. Heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time,Daughters of the Witching Hill is a book you won’t soon forget. —Barbara Ardinger, Feathered Quill Book Reviews

A fascinating tale. The story unfolds without melodrama and is therefore all the more powerful. Recommended for fans of Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. — Jamie Kallio, Library Journal (Starred Review)

The Pendle witches’ story, retold as a passionate saga of female friendship. Kirkus Reviews

Sharratt fills the book with fascinating accounts of rituals and magic practices, and her gift for the language of the era brings the narrative to life. Striking just the right balance between the demands of fact and the allure of a good story, she has produced a novel that’s both convincing and compelling. Daughters is—literally—a spellbinding book. —Julie Hale, BookPage

What an original voice Mary Sharratt has. She brings a haunting, ancient story — part of the local legend and history of where she lives — into life with vivid characters and a gripping plot. Old, lost, long-ago ways are made real. —Karleen Koen, author of Through a Glass Darkly and Dark Angels

Sharratt’s witches break the stereotype of “crones and sirens” and are vividly rendered. An authentic portrait of a dangerous time. —Margaret George, author of Helen of Troy

Like a darker early Alice Hoffman. —Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Daughters of the Witching Hill cast a powerful spell over me as I sped through the pages, utterly transfixed. Readers are hereby warned of their own potential enchantment by this bewitching tale. —Katharine Weber, author of True Confections and Triangle

I have rarely read a historical novel that captures the voices of another time as gracefully and fully as Mary Sharratt does in Daughters of the Witching Hill. In beautifully evocative prose, she calls up the beauties and joys of their world as fully as she details the cruelties and greed that destroyed it — and them. —Margaret Frazer, author of the Sister Frevisse Mysteries and the Joliffe Player Mysteries

No one casts a spell like Mary Sharratt. I was enchanted by this wonderfully absorbing novel, fascinated by the very real yet magical world of the Pendle witches.—Sandra Gulland, author of the Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun

Mary Sharatt’s Daughters of the Witching Hill is a powerful tale of the narrow gap between good and evil and how easily one can slip — or be pushed — into the abyss. Her portrayal of the complex pressures of poverty and social change on the wise women of Pendle Forest is compassionate and compelling.—Judith Lindbergh, author of The Thrall’s Tale

A remarkable story, powerful and compelling and ultimately heart-breaking.—Sharon Kay Penman, author of The Sunne in Splendour, Here Be Dragons, The Devil’s Brood, and Time and Chance