Monday, 27 September 2021

A Secret History of Witches

Finished September 19
A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

This novel follows five generations of women in the United Kingdom from the early 19th century to World War II. The story begins in Cornwall in the 1830s, when the youngest sister in a family begins to exhibit the power she has inherited. Nanette came to Cornwall from France as a young child, part of a family of Romany people fleeing persecution. Like the rest of her family, she speaks French, but has also learned the local Cornish dialect, and English. Nanette takes the vegetables and cheese her family produces on their small farm and sells it at the local market. Their neighbours are still wary of this family and suspicious of their differences and the language they speak amongst themselves. 
It is Nanette's grandmother who had a vision of where they would find haven, and who sent them there and protected them with her last breath.
The skills that the women in the family have range from simple herbal skills to scrying and making spells. Nanette has inherited a crystal that she sees things in, and a grimoire, or book of spells. They are connected to her and her descendents from the family that has already owned and used them. 
Nanette has a quiet life on the farm except for one incident in her youth that brings her own daughter Ursule to the family. 
Ursule begins her life in Cornwall, but circumstances take her to Wales where her own daughter Irène begins her life. 
As each woman comes to adulthood she learns of her heritage and her nature, sometimes with the help of other family, sometimes on her own, sometimes with help from others. 
Each woman chooses her own path, and how to use her gift and how to protect the knowledge of that gift from those who would persecute her for it. 
Each woman's story is different through these choices, and the knowledge they gain. As we see how those choices bring them different things in their lives, we also see how others react to them. The gifts they have inherited are not easy ones to have, and sometimes difficult choices must be made, and things that matter must be sacrificed.
This is a story of women trying to do the right thing for their families and for society as a whole, and trying to stay safe while they do those things. The book drew me into their lives and made me care about what happened to them, and the familiars that each woman connected with. For me it was a real page-turner and one that left me wanting more.

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