REVIEW: Widdershins - Helen Steadman

Widdershins -  Helen Steadman
Published by Impress Books on 1st July 2017.
My rating: 3/5
Book depository purchase link.

"Did all women have something of the witch about them?"

Widdershins is a dark and sometimes horrifying tale of how women and "witches" were treated in the mid-seventeenth century. It twists nature and politics to show how the church held high influence on topics like midwifery and healing and exposes the reality of major gender issues just a few hundred years ago. 

Following the perspectives of Jane, an apprentice healer, and John, a damaged man, we see the two sides of witches at this time - the hunted and the hunter. It was interesting that Jane and John aren't as connected as I expected. They lead quite separate lives, both suffering loss yet dealing with it in entirely different ways. They balanced each other out, but I did look forward to Jane's chapters way more by the end. You'll see why.

With natural herbs acting as remedies for many illnesses back then and limited scientific knowledge, the women were the ones fighting for the safety of humanity. Yet, instead of encouraging their efforts, men like John were frightened. Kind of destroys that image of masculinity everyone had, doesn't it? Instead, John gets a bit frightened when his wife goes into labour and is about as useful as a wet leaf. 

It only takes a moment to remember that the witch trials in the novel are inspired by true events to make you shiver. 

I admired Jane's bravery and her relationship with Tom. Her strong moral code and love for her family made her a powerful character, not even considering that she could help to heal others. While John was supposed to be stronger considering the century, he really wasn't. He was whiny, self-pitying and mistrusting. Even worse, when he turned to witch-hunting, he lost any sense of innocence that he had as a child and became a complex villain.

On one hand, I knew that it was the church, his uncle and his loss that had caused him to become that way. On the other, he was a vile murderer. It left me wondering, could I really hate him? 

Showing how violent such strong beliefs and fear can become, Helen Steadman put together a haunting historical novel. It's my favourite anti-summer read of the season so far.

Love, Jess

Thank you Impress Books for my ARC.

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