James Morrow


The Last Witchfinder (2006)



The Last Witchfinder (2006)

The Last WitchfinderI picked up The Last Witchfinder when I came across a four for the price of three book sale. It looked interesting, and was set in the late 1600s early 1700s, so it’s a time period I find interesting, so I picked it up.

Jennet Stearne’s father is a witchfinder. While her father searches out witches in England, Jennet and her brother Dunstan are educated by their Aunt Isobel, a woman who is strong minded and firmly believes in giving girls a complete education, so they can be equal partners with men in marriage.

Yet these are not the only characters in the book. Interwoven with Jennet’s story is a narrative told by the personality of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophice Naturalis Principia Mathematica. From him (and the narrative voice is most definitely male) we learn some of Isaac Newton’s struggles, Jennet’s struggles, and the struggles of books.

We also see the field of witchfinding, the kind of men who enter the field, and how the end up as witchfinders. The story also travels to the American colonies and spends time not only with Algonquin Indians, Benjamin Franklin, and even some West Indies pirates.

Taking the book as a whole, I found I preferred the first part of the book, and the time Jennet spends with her Aunt Isobel. I suppose part of the problem was that I never found Jennet a satisfying character as an adult. It was nothing I can quite place my finger on, except that I sometimes found her reactions to things strange–even considering her life and her past. I also was frustrated because just as I started to find a supporting character interesting, Jennet would move on to a new set of supporting characters.

Also somewhat disconcerting, considering that this was a period piece, I didn’t always quite get the feel of the times or places where Jennet lived.

However, despite these issues I had with the book, I did in fact enjoy The Last Witchfinder and wanted to find out what happened to Jennet and her various friends, so even when I was mildly frustrated, I still kept reading, because I did want to know what happened.

So this was an interesting book, but one I don’t think I care to read again.
Rating: 6/10