Thursday, July 05, 2007

Susannah Morrow by Megan Chance

Susannah Morrow by Megan Chance
Warner fiction
Copyright 2002
466 pages, incl. brief author note

I went into the reading of Susannah Morrow knowing almost nothing about Salem Village, apart from the fact that what began as strange situation developed into a hysteria that ended in the deaths of many people accused of witchcraft. This particular story tells the tale of Susannah Morrow, a fictional composite of several of the accused. Susannah arrives in Salem Village from London as her sister, Judith, is struggling with the birth of a daughter. Judith dies shortly after the baby’s birth and Susannah takes over what would be considered the “woman’s place” in her sister’s household: cooking, scrubbing, taking care of the children. But the eldest of the children, Charity, harbors the secret of a “sin” that her mother helped her to hide and she fears that her mother’s part in the deception will keep Judith from heaven. As a result, Charity begins to hallucinate and develops an animosity towards Susannah that leads to horrible consequences.

The book does an excellent job of explaining what exactly happened, that a group of girls apparently got together and pretended to be tormented by various specters of women whom they accused of witchcraft. While some of the characters were fictional, including the title character and the family she lived with, the reality is apparently that what began as a horrible prank led to hysteria, numerous arrests, the deaths of many innocent people, poverty for a large number of village families, and the near-collapse of a small society.

Susannah Morrow is a pretty good book that didn't really thrill me. I have to admit that I tend to dislike anything that is dark or gothic in tone and I quickly reached the point that I really just wanted to get the book over with. I did, however, like the ending and the book was written with the kind of flow that makes it easy to read quickly.

I think what I really found uncomfortable about the book was the way each character seemed to twist his or her own belief in God, faith, and the scriptures to fit what they wanted to believe was happening around them. It may be reality that humans do so, but it made for annoying reading. It can be looked at another way, of course, as a fascinating examination of the horror that can happen when people are swayed by the beliefs of those around them. And, it certainly is bizarre and intriguing, the idea that a group of young girls were the root of such a huge frenzy, all because they played pretend to cause trouble for a few women they didn’t like. I’d definitely like to read some nonfiction to learn a bit more. However, the author mentioned that most of the girls who made the accusations disappeared from records after the frenzy died down. Still, it appears there is quite a bit of information to be found. If anyone can recommend a good, accessible book about Salem, please share!

3.5/5 - good flow, a little too dark for my taste (not that I expected sweetness and light in a story about that particular event but, you know . . . )

I'm going to call this a book for the Armchair Traveler Challenge because I just got to travel to Salem, Massachusetts (a place I've never visited in real life). Cool. I'm having fun traveling.

I've got some housework that can't stand to be put off any longer, so I'm going to delay the Chunkster drawing until Monday, if that's okay. Is that okay? Pardon me if I go quiet for a few days.

Also . . . three people have chosen me for a "Rockin' Blogger Award". Yikes. I guess I put that one off too long. Okay, I'll do a post on that when I have a minute, also. Thanks to all who think my blog rocks. Right back at ya. :)

Bookfool, Rockin' Beneath the Laundry Mountain


  1. Welcome back to the Hubby! Nice presents he brought you back. At least he didn't bring you a croc.

    I was very into the Salem witch trials waaaay back in my teens but not lately. It's just crazy, how public opinion can be swayed. I doubt we've come all that far either, no matter what we'd like to think.

  2. Carrie,

    Hubby says "Mwaaaaahoooahhhh." Which means he's playing the didgeridoo, again. I think it's very possible I could eventually find it annoying. LOL

    Well, he ate some croc but I'm also glad he didn't bring one back. :)

    Oh, yeah, I totally agree. I don't think humans really change all that much at all. Group think is, in my opinion, a much more common thing than independent thought.

  3. I really like the sound of that book! I may have to check it out. I tend to like darker books like that for some reason...they've always intrigued me.

    Go you with your rockin' blog! ;) I completely agree. You're quite the rockin' blogger!

  4. I read this book a few years ago and didn't like it very much. I don't remember why exactly - I wanted to learn more about the Salem witch trials so it was more the writing than the topic I didn't care for. At the time I purchased A Delusion of Satan by Frances Hill which I understood to be the definitive nonfiction book on the subject. Not sure if this is still true, but I'm sorry to say I haven't read it yet so cannot give you a review.

  5. It's frightening to think that back in the days of the witch trails a woman could be accused of being a witch just for being opinionated. And they had no way of defending themselves! I would have been placed on a dunking board for sure.

  6. Chris,

    Susannah Morrow came highly recommended to me, so I think it's really a matter of whether or not you like that type of atmosphere; I can't say for sure. If you like dark novels, you'll probably enjoy it.

    And, thank you. You rock, too. :)


    Thanks. I've missed your rockin' blog posts. Are you back for good?


    In my case, I just expected, I think, normal people who got trapped in the fervor. But, Charity was bizarre and a totally messed-up kid. It took me a while to figure out that Chance was trying to portray her as so deluded by fear that she hallucinated and then played along with the other girls because she had an agenda.

    I just looked up the book you mentioned and it sounds fascinating, thanks. You can tell me if you beat me to reading it. :)


    They'd have roasted me, for sure. ;)

  7. Glad to hear your hubby is back! Actually I will put this book on my radar because I do like those gothic type stories :)

  8. I'm sorry Susannah Morrow wasn't better. I have two non-fiction books on Salem that are both very well-regarded, but I have to admit they are kind of dry. The first is Salem Possessed, by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, which is more about the social origin of the Salem witch trials (it explores deep divides between certain families in the more agrarian Salem Village and the more cosmopolitan Salem Town). Then I have another one called The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, by Carol F. Karlsen, which is a more feminist take on why women were persecuted in witch hunts generally. Another book that people talk about is In the Devil's Snare, by Mary Beth Norton, but I haven't read that one yet. Let me know if you find anything good on the subject, obviously I'm interested, too :)

  9. It's hard to go past The Crucible by Arthur Miller.

  10. When I was in fifth grade, my sage class did a kind of Salem role-playing. We read some stuff about it, then we were assigned roles and acted out a trial or two. I was Elizabeth Bishop, and I remember just getting really into the playacting. I could scream and shake and roll around to my heart's content-it was addictive!

    I haven't really thought about Salem in a while, but this book sounds good. I'm like Chris-I enjoy books on the darker side.

  11. I read this book last year and wasn't impressed. The story of the Salem witch trials is interesting, so it must have been this particular book.

  12. Iliana,

    Susannah Morrow came highly recommended; it just wasn't to my taste, so I think you're wise to read between the lines and add it to your wish list if dark/gothic reads are your thing. :)

    Gentle Reader,

    Thanks so much! I did a little exploring and Frances Hill's book and tour guide both sound interesting, as does a book that I can't remember the title of - the author is (not sure of the spelling, here) Marilynne Roach. I'm trying really hard not to spend money on books, right now, so I've just added those to my wish list but if I get one or the other and read, you'll know!!


    I didn't even know what The Crucible was about, but we have a copy that my eldest read for one of his lit classes. Thanks for the mention!


    I have to admit your description made me smile. What a great way to learn about history - acting it out! Obviously, the story of Salem wasn't presented well to me, as a child. I knew almost nothing about it and found the book very informative. If it had been my kind of story, I'm sure I would have enjoyed the book. So, you'll probably like it. Go for it. :)

  13. Lynne,

    I thought the angle from which she chose to tell the story was a little yucky, myself. But, a lot of people enjoy it - the book came very highly recommended. You're right; the story of Salem in and of itself is really quite fascinating.

  14. I just bought The Witch Of Blackbird Pond...another that I missed in childhood. I'm guessing that the witch trials fit somewhere into that.

  15. Awww, I hate to hear you didn't love Susannah Morrow. I read it a few years ago and adored it! But, I like darker stuff sometimes. I have her second book but haven't read it yet. I think I'm afraid I'll be disappointed if it isn't as good.

    Welcome home to the hubby!

    I guess I won't put you in my Rockin' post, but you are totally rockin!

  16. Bybee,

    I had to look up The Witch of Blackbird Pond to see. I knew it was a Newbery book, but I guess I've never read it. Yep, looks like it's a history lesson in witchcraft trials. Cool. I went on a Newbery binge when my eldest was around kindergarten age, but apparently I didn't get to that particular title.


    Well, I didn't hate the book, so that's good. :) I do prefer sweetness and light.

    Thanks for the hubby-welcome and yes, don't put me on your list! But, thank you, and right back at ya! :)

  17. Even though you only gave this 3.5, I think I want to read it, because I've always been fascinated with Salem!

  18. Dewey,

    I hope you enjoy it! What I was trying to get across in my review was the fact that the book was too dark for me, but still a decent read that I thought many people would enjoy, so I'm glad I didn't put you off. :)


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