The Heretic’s Daughter – Kathleen Kent

Posted 24 September, 2008 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 19 Comments


Title: The Heretic’s Daughter
Author: Kathleen Kent
Date Finished: Sept 23, 2008 #55
Pages: 332
Rating: 3/5

To be fair and honest and going to preface this by saying that I don’t think I would have been really drawn into any book I read this week, and so I’m not sure if it is the book or if it’s me that failed. When I came home from work on Friday and saw the book leaning against my front porch I was so excited I started it immediately. I read and read but was never really drawn into the book. The problem is that I can’t quite figure out why, which makes me wonder if it is simply me. The two reviewers below loved the book…

The Heretic’s Daughter is set in the late 1690s in the settlements surrounding Boston. Well–you all know the basic story: Salem witch trials, heretics, people speaking against others, and finally witch hangings. The story is told through the eyes of young Sarah whose family has just been uprooted from their hometown as they unknowingly carry smallpox to their new residence. Along with the smallpox, there are several other incidents that make their neighbors wary of Sarah’s family and when the names start being called out for those who are witches, Sarah’s mother is one of the first to be called to trial.

Much of the book is about Sarah’s struggle to come to terms with her life and the events that have changed everything forever. She struggles with her desire to be loved by her family but also with her age and inability to quite understand the adult world. I was often impatient with Sarah, but I think this is Kent’s ability to craft a nine-year-old well and to write a believable narrative. The second half of the book deals heavily with the trials as well as the imprisonment of Sarah’s family after they have been accused of witchcraft. The second half of the book was incredibly heartbreaking and speaks of the injustices that occurred in the late 1690s in Salem and the Boston areas. This time period has always been fascinating to me–if you like history and non-fiction I would recommend Governing the Tongue by Jane Kamensky–it goes into some detail about the Salem trials as well as other events in early colonial Massachusetts (link takes you to Amazon, not a review).

Overall even despite my lower rating, I would recommend this book. I think that many would find it enjoyable and interesting. There was something about it that never really drew me in, though. Most of the story is mostly introspective and so in many ways it seems as though Sarah is the only really developed character. Kent also uses the first half of the book to “set up” the story and so it wasn’t really until I was two-thirds into the book that I was really interested in the events (i.e. the imprisonment). But that last third of the book–pretty darn good.

See what they thought:
Corinne; Wendy

19 Responses to “The Heretic’s Daughter – Kathleen Kent”

  1. Sorry this one fell flat for you, Trish. I think our mood can definitely play a part in how a novel effects us. Thanks for the link to my review :)

  2. This just came in the mail yesterday; sorry to hear that it didn’t grab you. I do know the feeling where you’re just predisposed to be ambivalent towards whatever you’re reading, though.

  3. Hey Trish and thanks for the honest review. This one is in the mail to me…so I’m still looking forward to reading it…and if it falls flat for me…that will be okay…because I won’t be alone. If I like it…that’s okay also…I just like hearing both sides of the coin when it comes to books…ultimately I make up my own mind and draw my own conclusions.

  4. Like yasmin said, I always appreciate an honest review. I can think of many periods of my life when this one wouldn’t have been a good read for me :)

  5. I can’t say that I loved it either. It isn’t a book I probably would have picked up myself because I found it quite dark. But, I did think it was worth reading in the end.

  6. The theme of this book interests me, and just the other day I was thinking that I miss reading historical hiction. So it’s going on the “someday” list. I know that feeling of not being quite able to figure out why a book didn’t work for you…frustrating, isn’t it?

  7. Sounds interesting! I’ll have to look out for this book… furthermore, I haven’t been reading much historical fictions lately. ;)

  8. I do think mood can often play a big part in how we perceive things. It does sound like an interesting premise for a book and it is on my list already.

  9. This time period has always interested me, but I think the only literature I’ve ever read about Salem is The Crucible. I hope your next book helps you get out of your reading funk!

  10. *Wendy – I completely agree–and I think that’s what happened with this one. Just bad timing.

    *Fyrefly – I hope you enjoy it!

    *Yasmin – It’s an interesting time period and everyone else seems to love it, so I think maybe it was just me. I do hope you enjoy it!

    *Corinne – Hopefully it passes and the next read is better. I’m really glad that you liked this one so much!

    *Tricia – I thought it was worth the read, but I think there was too much setting up at the beginning?

  11. *Nymeth – I have been reading more historical fiction lately and I do really like it! On the flip side, it’s also frustrating sometimes when I can’t figure out why I love a book so much. Ha ha–I guess I need to figure these things out! :) But for example Ishiguro and McCarthy books really draw me in but I can’t pinpoint what it is about them that I find so intriguing!

    *Natasha – Cool!! I don’t think we had any family over here that early. Most of my dad’s family came over in the 1950s and my mom’s in the 1800s.

    *Melody – Books like this make me want to read more historical fiction–such a fun (and informative) genre!

    *Jeanette – Mood plays a big part for me. It is a very interesting book–I hope you like it!

    *Laura – Some girl at Starbucks the other day went into this whole lecture about how The Crucible isn’t really about the Salem Witch Trials but McCarthyism blah blah blah–I just wanted some coffee. :) But yes, the time period is really interesting!!

  12. It’s kind of nice to read a different viewpoint about this particular book. The other reviews I’ve read have been all glowy, so far. I like to hear the negatives. I hope that’s not a bad thing, LOL. There are so many books on the Salem Witch mess that it’s hard to choose what to read and what not to. It’s a fascinating topic but not always done well in the retelling.

    Hope you find something wonderful to read, this weekend!

  13. *Michelle – it’s pretty easy reading–it just didn’t grab me like I hoped it would. Timing had a lot to do with it, though.

    *Bookfool – I know exactly what you mean–when I go onto Amazon for reviews (which I don’t do quite as often), I always look at the bad things. I kind of stopped doing that though because then I looked for those bad things in the book. Know what I mean? This was good just not great.

    *Anna – It could be. Part of me feels that because I can’t really pinpoint what it is about this book that I didn’t love that it might have been timing–but I’m loving the book I’m reading now…? I do hope you like it!!

    *Joy – Haha–at least there’s that. :)

  14. I have this one waiting to be read. Sorry you didn’t like it Trish but you know everyone has different tastes and something that grabs one person may not do the same for another. I wouldn’t worry about it.

  15. *Dar – Ha ha–I’m not sure why I’m so apologetic when I don’t like a book and I don’t think I realized it until your comment. :) I hope you like this one, though!! Everyone else is gushing over it!