The Burning Time

The Burning Time

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by Carol Matas

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Rose's idyllic existence in sixteenth century france is destroyed when her father dies, and her mother—a midwife and healer to half the families in the town—is arrested and accused of being a witch. When her mother begs Rose to save herself, Rose must weigh the terror of death against the pain of life on her own. First published in 1993, The Burning


Rose's idyllic existence in sixteenth century france is destroyed when her father dies, and her mother—a midwife and healer to half the families in the town—is arrested and accused of being a witch. When her mother begs Rose to save herself, Rose must weigh the terror of death against the pain of life on her own. First published in 1993, The Burning Time is an unrelenting examination of cruelty and injustice.

Set in France in the sixteenth century, The Burning Time tells the story of a young girl whose mother is accused of being a witch. In her village, everyone is suspect. An accusation is enough to bring arrest, shame, even torture. Rose Rives cannot understand how the authorities—from the magistrate to the village priest—can encourage the villagers to denounce their neighbours as witches. Rose's simple life is shattered when her mother, who has been a midwife and a healer to half of the families in town, is turned over to the authorities. Struggling to free her mother, Rose finds herself pitted against some of the people she trusted the most.

The Burning Time is an unrelenting examination of the cruelty and injustice committed against women through all ages and the courage some women have found to speak out.

Editorial Reviews

"It's the history that's compelling here, the facts that are left out of the traditional textbooks, the role played by those strong women outsiders who threatened the male hierarchy."
CM Magazine
"The plot grips readers' attention...Highly Recommended."
Resource Links
"This book gives an insight into how women suspected of witchcraft were mistreated and to a large extent misunderstood in medieval times."
"A quick read with a powerful punch."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Matas's execution of a historical tale about a 15-year-old girl whose mother is accused of witchcraft in 16th-century France is "feverish" and "extreme," said PW, but the "overweening injustice" in the story "may grab YA audiences." Ages 12-up. (Feb.)
The ALAN Review - Connie Russell
Set in France in the sixteenth century, The Burning Time is a book about the period when many women were accused of being witches and were executed as a result. Rose, the central character in the book, is a young woman whose mother stands accused. With Rose's father dead and her two brothers away on business, Rose must take responsibility for her mother's life as well as her own. The story is written in first person from Rose's perspective. She must weigh the wishes of her mother against her own feelings about being left on her own. Readers will be able to compare the fear of the villagers and their seeming indifference to Rose and her mother's plight to other horrible events in history. Graphic accounts of torture and sexual references make this well-written book a choice for mature readers.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-This well-written historical novel set in early 17th-century France offers an unusual perspective on a perenially popular, often sensationalized subject. Rose Rives, 15, and her mother are shocked by the sudden accidental death of Rose's father, but their tragedy has just begun. Madame Rives, a midwife and healer, is accused of being a witch and, along with several other village women, is tortured until she both confesses and names other supposed ``witches.'' Rose is also accused, but manages to escape capture with the help of friends. The story is fast paced and suspenseful, with briskly drawn but convincing characters. Matas suggests the real reasons why females may have been accused of witchcraft: professional jealousy on the part of male medical practitioners; greed for land or wealth (which was forfeited to the church); resentment of strong, independent women; and the settling of long-standing grudges between neighbors or family members. The scene in which Rose's mother is tortured is graphic and compelling, allowing readers to understand just how the accused might have been forced to give false testimony. Rose's difficult choices are well drawn, and there is real drama as the plot quickly draws to a close. While the events depicted are generally grim, some hope is offered in a brief epilogue that helps to lighten the overall tone without trivializing the topic or weakening the book's impact. Matas's ability to write gripping stories that bring the past alive is well displayed in this enlightening and involving novel.-Lisa Dennis, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Product Details

Orca Book Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.75(w) x 7.25(h) x 0.25(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Carol Matas is an internationally acclaimed author of over thirty-five novels for children and young adults. Her best-selling work, which includes three award-winning series, has been translated into Spanish, Japanese, Taiwanese, Turkish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, German, French, Indonesian and Russian.

A graduate of the Actor's Lab, in London England, Carol first earned a B.A. (English) from The University of Western Ontario. Her teaching experience includes Artists in the School, Manitoba Arts Council;visiting professor at Bemidji State University, Minnesota; and a Creative Writing instructor, Continuing Education Division, The University of Winnipeg. Carol is an inspiring and passionate speaker who is frequently invited to address children and adults alike across North America.

Carol writes contemporary and historical fiction, as well as science fiction and fantasy. She first began writing historical fiction when her Danish husband told her stories about his parents' experiences fighting the Nazis in World War II. She has often written about Jewish themes, and is well known for her books concerning the Holocaust, writing Daniel's Story at the request of The United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Over the years, her knack for successfully infusing serious and thought-provoking issues into an action-driven format has kept readers of all ages engaged.

The list of awards for her books is long, and includes two Sydney Taylor awards, The Geoffrey Bilson award, a Silver Birch award, The Jewish Book Award, as well as the inclusion of her books on many honour lists, such as the ALA notable list, The New York Times Review notable list, The New York Public Library list for the Teen Age, and the Voya books in the middle, Best Book list. She has also been nominated for the Governor General Award twice.

More information is about Carol is available on her web site:

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5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
In the 106 pages of THE BURNING TIME, Carol Matas is able to take you through tremendous tragedy. And hope.

Rose's mother is a midwife who is known for her great gift of healing, and Rose oftentimes helps her mother. Rose's father dies unexpectedly, leaving just she and her mother to take care of themselves and the land he left them in his will.

Her father's relatives are not happy that they did not receive the land upon Rose's father's death. One uncle in particular feels it should be his and is willing to do about anything to get the land for himself. This is where the historical travesty against women during that time period becomes so real--Rose's mother is accused of being a witch. If you think you know what happened to women accused of being witches during that time, you will still be moved by what happens in this book.

Carol Matas has taken such a historical event and put such closeness to it with her characters. No longer is France in the 16th century something read about in a history book, but rather real people let us into their lives and we experience a different kind of world. A different kind of society.

As a teacher I recommend this book often and every student of mine who has read it absolutely loves it. It is a quick read with a powerful punch.