The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane: Katherine Howe

Posted 13 January, 2011 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 24 Comments


Title: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Author: Katherine Howe
Published: 2009; Pages 362
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane begins when Connie, a Harvard graduate student of early American colonial studies, is called to a nearby town of Marblehead for the summer to help renovate her grandmother’s home in order to sell it.  While cleaning out the dusty shelves she discovers a scroll hidden inside a key with the name Deliverance Dane.  Connie, in search of a topic for her dissertation begins the dig for discovering who Deliverance Dane might have been and why her name was hidden in a Bible on her grandmother’s bookshelf.

Why I read it: My dad and stepmom gifted this book to me last Christmas (2009). I’m terribly bad about giving people books or recommendations and wanting them to finish the book immediately but failing to do so when I’m given a book. Trying to remedy that!

What I liked: I’ve always been drawn to the colonial period of America–the Antinomian Controversy, the religious tension between various sects, the Salem Witch trials, the phamphleteering of colonials and coteries of enlightened thinkers.  It’s a fascinating time period and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane certainly captures much of the mystery of that time.  In that respect this book really held my interest.  There are two story lines–the main story of Connie, the graduate student in search of answers, and the story of Deliverance Dane in the 1680s, and both in their own ways helped propel the story.

Katherine Howe has a strong knack for drawing a picture and while some parts of the book are too heavily descriptive or even overwritten at the beginning, for the most part I really enjoyed Howe’s writing style.  She withholds just enough details about the characters in the colonial time thread to keep a reader interested, and she puts an interesting spin on the perception and even theories about the Salem Witch Crisis.  This book reminded me a lot of The Heretic’s Daughter and I think if you enjoyed that book, you’ll enjoy this one as well.

Small Bones: I feel like I’m perhaps being overly picky here, but The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was rather predictable and while I did find a few surprises, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when the characters discovered something I had seen coming for a hundred pages.  And I’m a dense reader.  Every week when Scott and I watch NCIS he says 20 minutes into the show “Want me to tell you who did it?”  NO!!  I don’t try to figure out books or movies or TV shows before the end because I like to be surprised or maybe I just don’t want to be let down.  However, small bone because it didn’t ruin the book for me–just didn’t work as a plus.

The Bottom Line:  Despite the predictability and some overwriting The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was an enjoyable book.  It was my last book of 2010 and it was a solid way to end the year.  Both my parents enjoyed the book more than I did and I think that many others would as well.  While I love reading about this time period, it is hard to make the subject matter novel.  Howe definitely puts her own spin on the story, but somehow I was left wanting just a little bit more.  Picky Trish, but I hope you’ll enjoy it!

What are your favorite books about the Salem Witch Crisis?

Happy Reading!

I am an Amazon Associate and if you purchase The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane or any other Amazon product through this review I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no additional cost to you. Thanks!

24 Responses to “The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane: Katherine Howe”

  1. I felt the exact same way! The book was enjoyable to me overall as well, but it wasn’t quite as mysterious or literary as I expected.

  2. My husband does that TOOOO! And he’s ALWAYS right!! At least Scott asks you if you want to know. My husband will just say, “Oh, he’s going to _____” or something like that.

    I’m not usually a fan of books that can get through my denseness so that I can guess what’s going to happen. Unless, of course, there is some other redeeming quality–the writing, the characterization, etc.

    I already have The Heretic’s Daughter waiting for me, so I’ll start there and try this one if I enjoy the other. I haven’t read a lot of books about the Salem Witch Trials, though I do find that time period interesting.

  3. Kay

    I own this book and it is packed away somewhere in the storage unit. I’ll look forward to reading it when we are able to take those books back into our home.

    I love books set during the Salem Witch Trials or even just set in Salem. I think part of that comes from a high school assignment reading Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible. I’ve been fascinated ever since.

  4. “I’m terribly bad about giving people books or recommendations and wanting them to finish the book immediately but failing to do so when I’m given a book” – I’m the same way. It’s terrible.

  5. I am kinda curious about this book, but haven’t decided if I want to read it or not.

    On another note, I am exactly like you. For some reason it takes me forever to read books given to me by other people…

  6. I loved this book, although I agree with you that it was pretty predictable. But then I’m a huge sucker for any book with interweaving past and present storylines, especially with grad students as protagonists! :)

  7. I just read The Heretics Daughter a couple of months ago. I really loved it, and still will think about certain things from day to day. That is however, the only book that I have read about The Salem Witch Trials. I should give this one a shot.

    By the way, I just ordered Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Cant wait to read it! And there is a movie being made too!

  8. I read this book (but never reviewed it) and felt very similarly. I liked the book but Connie made me want to bang my head on the table at certain times because although she was supposed to be so smart, she certainly was dense. Great review!

  9. I know this Witch Trial time is a great setting for a novel, but I haven’t read anything on it. Maybe someday, but this is not what I am in the mood to read.
    I am also bad at reading and reviewing books that are gifts. I really need to remedy that.

  10. *Jenny – I agree, but I definitely think this is one that some people will really like and others will just feel eh about.

    *Erin – Yes, Scott knows I’ll get SO mad if he ruins the ending for me. LOL–I’m a bit of a pouter. ;) Definitely read Heretic’s Daughter–I liked liked that one OK but think it might have just been bad timing.

    *Kristina – Yes, Heretic’s Daughter is set entirely during the past so it’s a closer look. Apparently Kent has a new book out but I haven’t read it yet.

    *Kay – Oh the Crucible! How could I forget about that! I think that play was my first real foray into the witch trials–it is such a fascinating time in history!

    *Carolsnotebook – Funny how we want people to read books immediately but we’ll let our own sit for months (or years!) before getting to them!

    *Kailana – I wish I could pinpoint why I don’t read gifted books right away–really should be better about that!! Hope you enjoy this one.

    *Bermuda – Yes, historical fiction isn’t a genre I gravitate towards–I like it in theory but you’re right about the overwriting. Hmm!

    *Fyrefly – I think this is one of those that people will really like or not. And it definitely kept my attention–I just wanted a little more (can’t pinpoint what, though). Have you read The Darwin Conspiracy? I can’t remember if they’re grad students but it weaves past and present as well–very interesting book along the same lines as this one.

    *Michelle – Ooh my, I can’t wait to hear what you think about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close! It’s different but definitely worth it. And I did hear about the movie!

    *Toycool – Actually I might like your title better. Physick seems a bit awkward to me. Funny that the title changed across seas!

    *Samantha – There were parts where I just wanted to say “Really??” I really enjoyed the past parts but the present ones were too stilted.

    *Softdrink – Everyone must have read this one when I was on blogging break because when I was gifted the book I had a big “HUH?” moment. Was embarrassed I’d never heard of it!

    *Laura H – I started and stopped as well, but then picked it back up. The beginning was heavily overwritten–the middle and end less so.

    *Veens – It’s definitely an interesting time period! Not sure we’ll ever really understand why what happened did. Hope you’re having a great day, my dear.

  11. I have read The Darwin Conspiracy, and you’re right, they are grad students as well. Although the idea that a grad student could go “I’m sick of studying birds; I’m going to go to England and study something about Darwin.” and his advisor would go “Okay, have fun!” just made me laugh and laugh.

  12. I have this one too and I got it Christmas 2009 from my hubby. I was hoping to read that you were blown away by it. Alas it may sit on my shelf longer.

  13. I can’t remember if I found it predictable or not, but I loved Physick. It was just the right book at the right time, I think. Sometimes, if I’m enjoying the reading enough, I don’t care about predictability. I have this niggling feeling I knew what was going to happen, though, now that I’ve pondered a bit.

  14. I bought this one amidst the mad rush of positive blogger reviews and it hasn’t moved since then. I’ll hopefully get to it this year….

  15. Oh my gosh, I do the same thing with gifting books! I always assume that the book I’ve chosen is one the other person simply can’t resist but I so often wonder what in the world they were thinking by their choice!

  16. *Fyrefly – I read Darwin Conspiracy while in grad school so I don’t remember the details anymore but that’s funny about the advisor–probably not very realistic in the “real world!” ;)

    *Vivienne – I missed the wave of reviews on this one but apparently lots of people were blown away! Hope you enjoy when you get to it.

    *Bookfool – Sometimes right book for the right time has a lot to do with it, I think. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much, though! I think lots of people really did.

    *Trisha – LOL–how many books on my shelf can I say the same about–bought because of bloggers and haven’t touched yet. ;)

    *Cozy in Texas – Thanks–I’ll check out your competition.

    *Lisa – I’m always a bit embarrassed, too, when I receive a book from someone and have NEVER heard of it–like I’m supposed to be the book expert or something. Ha!

  17. I have a book upstairs about Salem but the name is escaping me at the moment. Great review and I will read it even though some parts are predictable. I dislike that also :)

  18. My son loved the classic Witch of Blackbird Pond so much he wants to read this one–but he is only 11. Do you have any take on whether or not a fairly mature youngster could handle the themes?