Book Review: A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan.
I saw this book sometime two Octobers ago with witchiness and spookiness at the front of my thoughts. After waiting for it to appear in paperback I picked it up. Then like so many of my books, it found its place on my encumbered shelves and there it stayed. Until January and my new resolution. (Click here to read more: https://druidgeorgi.com/2019/01/07/lets-make-resolutions-2019/)
Anyway, on to the book review!
At First Glance
A Secret History of Witches is exactly what the title suggests, which is refreshing… So, I would shelve it under fantasy/historical fantasy.
A Secret History of Witches chronicles five generations of the
Orchiére witches from 1810 – 1947. We follow each witch in their discovery of the craft, the ways in which they fight oppression, and how they choose to keep their family line alive. It’s main themes are coming of age, motherhood, love and choices.
As a multi-generational novel, this book follows five Orchiére women.
It begins with Nanette, the granddaughter of a powerful witch. Though surrounded by other Orchiére women, she is the only one with the true gift of witchcraft. Maybe because she hasn’t been stifled by the fear of being discovered by their Cornish (and very Christian) neighbours?
After a fairly large skip forward in time, Irené takes over. We’re in Wales and filled with discontent for farm life. Irené doesn’t want to work, she wishes to be a lady. She’s the first Orchiére witch to actually use her power. Until now any reference to the craft, ritual and spell casting, was more religious than witchy. (Spoiler) Irené gets exactly what she wants!
Then Morwen, her daughter, becomes our next Orchiére. Morwen is the complete opposite to Irené. There’s a wonderful tension in their relationship which was heartbreaking to read. Morwen takes us to London. And she barely uses her craft. Swearing it away in favour of love.
Finally, Veronica takes over. She is without her mother and barely knows about her Orchiére lineage at all. Veronica has to learn everything from scratch, with barely any help and has the most arduous task of any Orchiére woman before her. Veronica’s story is WW2 heartbreak with a touch of magic.
A Secret History of Witches is so character focused, I don’t really know what else to say about the Orchiére women in particular. They’re all women who face hardship and they get through it! The biggest takeaway from the women in this book was this; that men are scared of women with power, so they have to hide theirs to survive. If the story followed on today, I don’t think the Orchiére women, whoever they were, would have to hide themselves to survive. That I am sure of!
So, the other characters? Who are they? And, what are their roles? There are fathers, husbands, lovers and friends. But, my favourite secondary characters are the familiars. Because, witches gotta have familiars!
Louisa Morgan, pays a lot of attention to the relationships between witch and familiar and they (the familiars) often link each of the otherwise separated stories together. Very nice!
A Secret History of Witches was a little tricky for me. Honestly, I’m not sure I get along with the multi-generational style. Every section ended abruptly and I was thrown into some new equally
So, maybe it’s my bad and I need to grow a little stronger, maybe find my own crystal and ask it for guidance.
It isn’t a surprise that I love all things magical and this story contained my favourite style of spell casting, rituals and magic. Every magical essence stemmed from something physical. Whether that be a crystal or pet familiar or ancient spell in a book. Or even just a feeling in their bellies or hearts. These Orchiére women were (and felt) real and totally of their time. It made me hope or wonder if people like them ever existed. And, if they did… did their lineage survive?
Or, am I too old to discover I’m a witch?
Facts & Ratings
Publisher: Orbit (ISBN – 9781478977025)
Publish Date: 5th September 2017 (PB 3rd May 2018)
Time to Read: Like two weeks… Maybe 8-9 hours. (approx.)
Book Review: A Secret History of Witches Rating
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