Escape into the biggest historical debut of 2017: the true story of the 1640s Essex witch trials, for fans of The Miniaturist, Sarah Waters and The Essex Serpent.
'VIVID AND TERRIFYING' Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train
'If you loved The Essex Serpent...then you may have met your new favourite' Apple Books
'The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six...'
1645. When Alice Hopkins' husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.
But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women's names.
To what lengths will Matthew's obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?
Guest Post: researching the witch hunts
I started off by reading generally about the English Civil War, and the unrest and poverty it caused that enabled the witch hunts to really take hold. Travelling on horseback through Essex and Suffolk, Matthew Hopkins used manipulation and torture to extract confessions of making pacts with the devil. By autumn 1647 at least 250 people—mostly women—had been questioned and tried. More than a hundred were hanged. Using Malcolm Gaskill’s engaging and thorough work on Hopkins, I’ve tried to keep the names, the life stories and the ‘confessions’ of the witchfinder’s victims accurate in my book.
It was also important for me to know plenty about the broader context of the witch hunts. I wanted to understand my narrator properly – Matthew’s sister, Alice. I read a lot about seventeenth century food and cooking, clothing, religion and charitable giving, to try to understand what a woman’s life would have been like in Alice’s time. I also used anthologies of diary entries, love letters and confessions from the 1600s to help me get a sense of how people would have spoken and written about themselves and each other.
I spent time in Essex and Suffolk, where the witch hunts happened, comparing old maps with new ones to try and find old routes, and visiting churches and castles to get a sense of the different places the witch hunt went. I was also able to find the field where Matthew Hopkins is probably buried, which is incredibly creepy! Visiting the places that feature in the book was the most important way for me to capture the feeling of the witch hunts.
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