The Witchfinder's Sister

The Witchfinder's Sister

by Beth Underdown


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The Witchfinder's Sister 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous 16 days ago
An amazing account of life in the 17th c. Scary to think, but easy to believe that it could happen again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed the way you wove your quite believable fictional characters into the historical facts taking place in England. I loved the ending, and do hope you continue the tale of Alice in the "wonderful" new world that awaits her in Salem! Keep writing***
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was quite intrigued with this story. I found it hauntingly irresistible, both sad and scary.
sandrabrazier More than 1 year ago
It is 1645 in England. Alice Hopkins has recently become widowed. Because she is pregnant with her husband’s child, she decides she needs to move back to brother, Matthew’s, place. She needs financial support at a time like this. However, Alice notices a lot of strange things. There is a great feeling of fear in the small town. Soon, Alice discovers that her brother is a dreaded witch hunter. He has become a wealthy and powerful man, but he has also become evil and dangerous. This is a wonderful tale, told in the first person by Alice. This is her ‘daily book” or journal. At the beginning, she says that she wants people to hear her message, because, as she is writing it, she fears she will soon die. Well-developed characters fill unforgettable scenes that really tell what the days of the cruel witch hunt were like. This well-researched book is one I will not soon forget. It is not for the weak of heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sam1219 More than 1 year ago
I am voluntarily submitting my honest review after receiving an ARC copy of the ebook from NetGalley. This book is a haunting fictionalization of Matthew Hopkins's reign of terror during the seventeenth century witch trials in Essex. Told from the viewpoint of his sister, Alice, who is forced to return to his household as a pregnant widow following the tragic death of her husband, this novel is a vivid and horrifying illustration of the powerlessness, fear and at times, outright persecution women were subjected to in 1645 England. The narrator is created as an all too human woman, trapped by circumstance, and a product of her time--sure that some of her brother's victims are innocent, yet unable to dismiss the possibility of witchcraft completely. As she tries to discover her brother's motives for such vigorous lashing out at the most vulnerable and unprotected women for his persecution, she must guard against becoming a target herself. The book is a fascinating and quick read with a fluid style rife with tension that keeps the pages turning--at times it is like watching a horror film--I wanted to cover my eyes, but I just couldn't! While some criticize the significant departures from the historical record, I find no fault whatsoever on this account as this book is upfront about being historical fiction, so the author is absolutely justified in taking license with verifiable facts. Fans of historical fiction, particularly those with an interest in the history of the occult or the paranormal, will enjoy this book.
MorrisMorgan More than 1 year ago
Mirella More than 1 year ago
Although the story begins slowly, it ultimately picks up in the 2nd third. It is a tale about Alice and her brother Matthew. When Alice returns home pregnant after her husband's death, she finds a brother obsessed with the hunt for witches. Matthew truly is a vile villain, and is based upon a true historical figure who lived during the 17th century. The story evokes sympathy for the plight of women during that time - helpless to prevent blame for anything from the death of a person to soured milk. The author did an outstanding job with research and her prose is splendid. All in all, this was a very enjoyable novel that teaches us about the horrors of centuries past. Recommended!
CarolineA More than 1 year ago
I’ve had a fascination with the Salem Witch Trials since I first heard about them, ages ago. So when I saw The Witchfinder’s Sister available on NetGalley, I thought this was a perfect read for me. It may not be the Salem witch trials, but they were still witch trials. The Witchfinder’s Sister is based upon a real man named Matthew Hopkins who actually did put over a hundred women to death. This book is a fictional account of what happened, told from the first person perspective of his (fictional) sister, Alice. This book started out solid. I loved the details of Alice’s life, from before she left home, while she was away with her husband, and then as she returned, a (secretly pregnant) widow. But while the details of this story were engrossing, the plot never completely came together for me. Alice is, for the most part, an outsider watching her brothers actions but unable to do much. After all, she was just a woman and in the 1600’s they had no power. It’s possible this story could have benefited from being told in 3rd person, because then we could have seen past Alice’s limited view, but I honestly don’t know if that would have helped. What I did really like was the way the author weaved a possible explanation for Matthew’s actions. His mother (Alice’s step-mother) is described as basically having a mental illness of some sort. Of course, back then, that wasn’t a thing. However, Alice at one point wonders if their mothers “weakness of mind” could have passed on to Matthew. Of course, there are also supernatural possibilities thrown in as well, but those never felt completely valid to me. Overall, for a book that promised to be “haunting” and “spellbinding”, it really wasn’t. There was minimal interaction between our narrator and the accused witches. The one accused she did spent time with, never really seemed like a woman who had just been, essentially, sitting on death row. The feelings never felt genuine. I never felt the fear or the anguish of those who knew they were going to die, and most of that was because we very, very rarely saw it happen. I suppose you could say, for a book about women being accused of witchcraft, the accused were very secondary to anything else. Would I recommend this book? Eh… not really. I mean, if you have interest in this particular witch hunt and want to read a fictionalized account of Matthew Hopkins, you might enjoy this. But for this reader, it was unfortunately pretty forgettable.
jeanniezelos More than 1 year ago
 I can’t find any info about previous books so I think this must be Beth's debut novel – and what an intense and complex read for a first story! Its so well written I was pulled back into that time, back to the seventeenth century. I’m a UK reader, living in Norfolk, so reading about Matthew and Alice living in the Eastern region of UK, I had a mental image of places I know now as they would have been back then. My house was build in 1682 – strange to think of it still standing ( and for a long while yet I hope!!) when it was built such a short time after these events. Mix of the old and the current... So, Matthew Hopkins- I recall learning about him at school, along with the US Salem witch trials. The Crucible was one of our set text English reads. He’s cropped up as a side character in a few books since then, but I’ve never really thought much more about him. Here Beth’s given him a fictional sister, though he may have had a real one Alice is purely invented for this story. It works well, she’s a foil to him, shared upbringing, and a way to let us see his actions from someone who loved him as a child but grew scared and confused of the man he became. He’s a strange person, an enigmatic character, phlegmatic about what he needed to do, unemotional, even when it means tearing apart, condemning to death, people he’s known since childhood. I can’t decide whether he’s just cruel, vindictive, out for revenge, totally mad or whether he really believes in what he’s doing. From a small start his witch hunt takes on a life of its own and snowballs, and maybe the power pushed him to go further and further, made him feel righteous, invincible? Who knows, and after finishing the story I still don’t know. Alice, poor Alice. Her mother died when she was very young, father remarried and had Matthew, but his birth left his mother frail and Alice really took over his upbringing, loving and looking after him. Even then the public face, showing the happy family outside, the father who was a priest, a good man, the mother who simply tired easily, was hiding things, secrets that kept slipping quietly out, and building background to the current events. I so felt for Alice, she’s a good woman, widowed from her beloved Joseph, a servant’s son, whom Matthew did not approve of, she’s still young, in her twenties I think, and forced to come back and live off Matthews charity. She can see events unfolding, sees at first hand what’s going on but is powerless to stop anything. She tries though, tries to do what she can but Matthew is an unmovable force. Her small brother has grown into a confident and powerful man. He takes little note of her, and at times seems to really dislike her. she becomes just another tool for him to use in his never ending quest for witches.  Witch hunts, back then not knowing the cause of events, accidents, tragedies, people looked for someone to blame, and it was easy to pick on one person a little on the outside of society, and call witchcraft and the intervention of the Devil the cause. Sometimes I think we haven’t moved on that much, we still look to blame others, though not as witches but in some 21st century way. Its a fascinating first book, well researched, marrying real events and people with fictional ones to create an amazing story. ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and publisher 
CiaraRaven More than 1 year ago
I love a good historical fiction book, its probably my favorite genre of stories. I finished Beth Underdown's "The Witchfinder's Sister" in about three days; it was hard to put down. The story is told from Alice Hopkins point of view. She is the (fictitious) sister of the notorious Matthew Hopkins, a real witch hunter of the 17th century. Alice travels to her family home after becoming widowed and alone in London. As she becomes accustom to living with her mercurial younger brother, unsettling information about their past emerges. Trying to uncover the truth about her family's past, Alice comes entangle in Matthew's darkening plans. I've always been interested in the witch trials, the hysteria and likely political moves surrounding the innocent victims. Underdown does a masterful job recreating the tension and fear in the heart of rural England. She captures the village dynamics and cultural norms of the time, all which influence the main characters. I don't want to give too much away, but this is an excellent read. Well written, you get a good sense of the time period without getting bogged down. Great novel, I thoroughly enjoyed the read. If you enjoy historical fiction novels, I recommend. If you like strong female leads, I recommend. Some people may argue that Alice Hopkins isn't a strong character, but I think she is remarkable strong in her fortitude. If you like stories about the witch hunts, I think you will enjoy. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for my honest review.
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I received a free electronic copy of this historical novel based on fact from Netgalley, Beth Underdown, and Random House Publishing - Ballentine in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all, for sharing your hard work with me. This is a most frightening tale. Long before Salem had it's go-round with witch trials (Feb 1692 - May 1693), England, four years into their Civil War, had Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne. The Witchfinder's Sister is fiction based on the known facts of the time, including a book written by John Stearne, A Confirmation and Discovery of Witchcraft. Beth Underdown fleshes out those historical facts with an intriguing tale, covering March 1645 - the fifth day of Christmas, 1645. She brings this tale to life with her attention to detail and intimate knowledge of the times. The places Hopkins visits and the names of his victims are actual, though the role played by Alice is not. This is a novel I enjoyed and will happily recommend to my friends and family. And this is a debut author - can't wait to see what she comes up with, next....
MusicInPrint More than 1 year ago
Witches, Evil, Fear, Horror and Doom - Oh MY! Matthew has a past that has made him seek power over others at the peril of their deaths. He has set himself up to eliminate women by condemning them to hang for witchcraft. This era of history is terrifying; making this read disturbing and unpleasant. Matthew's sister Alice has a tragic existence from the death of her husband to the numerous miscarriages she has had. Although the reader routes for Alice to be the hero in this tale she is faced with so many diabolical events that it is unsettling. Beth Underdown does an excellent job of telling this Dark Story. A copy of this book was provided to me by Ballantine Books via Netgalley with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book and my comments here are my honest opinion.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
This read very slow for me. There were times when I really wanted to put the book down. And I want to kick myself for feeling like that because this was a horrible event in history. I should feel bad for thinking this. However, this is how I felt. The story did pick up some and while it was grueling to carry on, I was glad that I did. The finish was thoroughly an eye opening for me into that horrible event I referred to in the paragraph above. It was hideous what those people did. The tests and trials were enough that anyone would give up and say "yes, I'm a witch, kill me now". Back to the book though, the first half is L-O-N-G and S-L-O-W. I think the ending was so horrendous for this sister. However, was the first half worth the ending? I'm torn on that question. I was glad when I got through the slower part I know that for sure. Thanks to Random House/Ballantine for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest unbiased review.