Widdershins Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Widdershins is inspired by the Newcastle witch trials, where 16 people were hanged. Despite being the largest mass execution of witches on a single day in England, these trials are not widely known about. In August 1650, 15 women and one man were hanged as witches after a Scottish witchfinder found them guilty of consorting with the devil. This notorious man was hired by the Puritan authorities in response to a petition from the Newcastle townsfolk who wanted to be rid of their witches.
Widdershins is told through the eyes of Jane Chandler, a young woman accused of witchcraft, and John Sharpe, the witchfinder who condemns her to death. Jane Chandler is an apprentice healer. From childhood, she and her mother have used herbs to cure the sick. But Jane soon learns that her sheltered life in a small village is not safe from the troubles of the wider world. From his father’s beatings to his uncle’s raging sermons, John Sharpe is beset by bad fortune. Fighting through personal tragedy, he finds his purpose: to become a witchfinder and save innocents from the scourge of witchcraft.
The Historical Novel Society said of Widdershins: “Impeccably written, full of herbal lore and the clash of ignorance and prejudice against common sense, as well as the abounding beauty of nature, it made for a great read. There are plenty of books, both fact and fiction, available about the witch-trial era, but not only did I not know about such trials in Newcastle, I have not read a novel that so painstakingly and vividly evokes both the fear and joy of living at that time.”
Recommended for anyone who has enjoyed Stacey Halls' The Familiars, Beth Underdown's The Witchfinder's Sister, AK Blakemore's The Manningtree Witches, Elizabeth Lee's Cunning Women, Louisa Morgan's A Secret History of Witches, Jeanette Winterson's The Daylight Gate, Madeline Miller's Circe, Arthur Miller's The Crucible, or Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches.
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|Listening Length||8 hours and 11 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com.au Release Date||25 June 2021|
|Best Sellers Rank|| 99,677 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
2,917 in Historical Romance (Audible Books & Originals)
6,676 in Historical Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
32,321 in Historical Fiction (Books)
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Top reviews from other countries
But enough of the silly voices. Based on fact and extensively researched, Widdershins takes us on a rollercoaster ride through the childhoods of Jane Chandler and John Sharpe in County Durham and Scotland respectively, as they hurtle through the ether toward one another on an inevitable collision course. Something must break, as they say. And break it does, in the horrifyingly climactic Newcastle witch trials of 1650, in which either fifteen or sixteen innocents were hanged until dead on a single day.
In the witchfinder John Sharpe, Steadman has given us a religious psychopath par excellence, a deeply conflicted man for whom cognitive dissonance could have been invented, filled to overflowing with impotent rage for his immaculately damaged childhood, somehow unaware of this in the days before Freud and yet aware of it too. He knows he’s a fraud, yet believes himself to be doing God’s work; and so he soldiers on, his paltry excuse for a conscience clear. Had he been born today, he’d likely be a flight to Turkey, en route for Syria: plus ça change. Jane is his polar opposite, almost a romantic heroine, but in a good way: her wealth of misfortunate experience neither warps nor breaks her, and although she adapts to the slings and arrows life throws at her in a pragmatic manner, she remains true to the end.
I am not usually much of a one for historical fiction, unless it’s about England in the 1970s – but Widdershins had me on a knife edge throughout. It’s expertly plotted and immaculately paced, with more twists and turns than Fat Larry’s pants. The characters are by turns engaging and enraging, and the whole thing really puts you there, in time and place; it’s impossible not to get emotionally caught up and then put through the wringer by the fate of the victims of these show trials, effectively the end result of the clergy subjecting themselves to such unnatural practices as celibacy, which inevitably led to a mass gynophobia, passed onto the gen pop through the medium of fiery sermons. This really is an amazing first novel, astounding and outstanding. Five stars.
Jane Chandler was a great character who I was behind throughout the story.
The fact that this was based on a lesser known part of history had me googling into the night as I was fascinated.
If like me you love a historical fiction that drips in reality and is interesting this one is definitely for you!
Thank you to Love Books Tours and the author for the opportunity to read/listen to this.