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I Wish It Had Stayed Lost
The Lost Book of Salem - Katherine Howe
Member Name: flodombey
The Lost Book of Salem - Katherine Howe
Advantages: Easy to read
Disadvantages: Predictable, not very challenging, un-engaging characters
I picked this book up on a recent trip to Waterstones as I was looking for some easy to read options for a holiday and they had a 3 for 2 offer on. This book was in the offer and although I had never heard of it or of the author before I read the back and it sounded interesting so I bought it.
I have read the book over the last week and although it was very easy to read and I didn't dislike it as such, I did find it rather predictable and a tad patronizing as well as being almost laugh out loud ridiculous at times. It made me wonder whether this was actually aimed at teenagers but it would seem not.
Basically the book follows Connie Goodwin, a Harvard post-grad history student working towards her PhD who is tasked with clearing out her grandmothers old house over the summer. In the course of doing this she discovers an old bible with a key hidden in it and inside the key an old bit of paper with the name Deliverance Dane written on it.
The researcher in Connie begins to look into who Deliverance was and the quest takes her on a quite unexpected journey into her own past which revolves around the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. Connie discovers her own links with the past and a lot of soul searching about mothers and daughters is evoked by what she learns.
A sub plot involves Connie's blossoming relationship with Sam, a steeplejacker who she meets in the course of her research, this love story, however, is never delved into with much intensity.
Some of the things about this book which really irked me were as follows.
A lot of the time it feels like you are reading a decent adult novel and then it will delve into the realms of witchcraft in such a way that you almost want to laugh out loud. Some examples include: a dog which can disappear and reappear at will (is it real? is it a figment of Connie's imagination?), a realisation by Connie (the studious, fact obsessed research student) that she can harness time with her mind and bring dead things back to life.
And so on.
I kept feeling so annoyed with this book at what could have been. It was also incredibly disappointing that the plot and characters were as transparent as clingfilm and yet the lead character of Connie was totally oblivious to many of the upcoming events until they happened. This despite her supposed awakening to the world of witchcraft.
On so many levels I just felt it let me down and it did not really fit into a particular category to my mind. Its too daft and predictable to be a serious novel, too tedious to be aimed at teenagers and too patronizing to be a real hit with people who are properly into wicca or the paranormal.
Personally I did not feel any particular attachment to any of the characters and did not think they were overly engaging or interesting. In fact, the only character who I was intrested in learning more about was Deliverance Dane herself (a real Salem woman accused of witchcraft) and she only really appeared in short interlude chapters which was a shame.
I read the end notes written by the author with some interest and it turns out that she herself has researched her own links to a few of the women accused of witchcraft and that she herself is also a PhD student in Massachusetts. It did make me wonder whether she has simply indulged herself by writing a quasi-biographical work of fiction.
Anyway, I certainly would not pick up another book by this author following this one. Although it was easy to read I felt obliged to finish it out of habit, not because I had any curiosity left regarding the outcomes (which I had guessed by about 100 pages in). For me this was just not well written, engaging or challenging enough to be an enjoyable read which is a shame, it could have been so much more.
Summary: A real disappointment of a book which could have been so much better.