by Sara Voigt (@meaningfulmadness)
Today, I am sharing a book that I thought was a spooky fall read. I found Hester Fox's The Witch of Willow Hall (Amazon | Bookshop.org) compelling, bizarre, and surprising, with a spookiness that caught me off guard.
The protagonist, Lydia, is a likeable character, and I enjoyed the witchy elements that she brought to the story. Catherine, the eldest sister, and foil for Lydia is a haughty, cruel person and reminded me a bit of Kate from East of Eden by John Steinbeck. (If you have never read East of Eden, Kate is the villain, and she is abhorrent.) Catherine's motivation and actions, to me, were some of the most compelling in the story. Both Lydia and Catherine are developed in a way that the reader understands both why they are foils for each other and how their history has brought them to the point they are when the story begins.
Another strong point of the novel is the setting. Willow Hall is steeped in mystery, and as Lydia is learning and discovering herself and her powers, Willow Hall provides a creepy, mysterious backdrop. The story is set in 1821 only a few years after the last of the Salem witch trial hangings, so that added an element of intrigue to the book.
“Yet at the same time I want to untether my heart, toss it up into the sky and let it take wing. There's a wildness here that, if nothing else, holds promise, possibility. Who needs society? What has it ever done for us?”
I also enjoyed the love triangle that Lydia is involved in and observing Catherine's coyness and cunning with the men in her life. The addition of the love stories gives the novel a bit of a traditional romance book feel, but because there are some heavier moments in the novel, the love component gives the reader something familiar to root for.
“He has the face of a classical statue, all strong angles rendered soft and beautiful as if by a practiced sculptor. His eyes are the misty green of shipwreck glass, and indeed I fear they could lure me to a stormy fate.”
I have to say, though, I was SHOCKED by the scandal that forced the Montrose family to leave Boston. (I don't put emojis in this blog, but geez, insert all the shocked-faced emojis here.) The scandal is pretty out there, at least for me. So, I did have a bit of a hard time getting past that. I definitely don't think that it is a predictable twist, for better or worse.
Overall, I enjoyed this read especially for seasonal reading. There were parts that I felt were predictable (the love story--however it didn't really take away from my enjoyment) and parts that made me cringe a bit during--eek! (The scandal was disturbing for me. Period.). If you aren't easily disturbed and like historical fiction with a bit of the supernatural. This is the book for you. It is a solid autumnal read with a compelling plot and interesting characters.
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