A Mirror for Witches
About the Book
Here is a dazzling 1928 classic novel of witchcraft set in seventeenth century Massachusetts. Young Doll Bilby is a girl caught up and destroyed in the hysteria surrounding the Salem Witchcraft trials. This is a reproduction of the original edition, embellished by a set of remarkable woodcuts by Robert Gibbings. Forbes is best known as the author of the children’s favorite Johnny Tremain (1943), winner of the prestigious Newbery Award and described by one reviewer as “a wonderfully written, very dramatic package.” Forbes is less well known for her adult novels, but she uses the same acute powers of prose here in recounting the life of Bilby, a French child rescued and brought to America after seeing her parents burned alive as witches.
Forbes tells the story in a straightforward manner, and yet instills the narrative with the eerie atmosphere of New England’s dark past. Bilby is branded as a witch by her stepmother and others in the town of Cowan Corners, near Salem. Men and boys confuse love and sexual attraction with sorcery and devil worship; ordinary accidents and lost property lead to vicious accusations of witchcraft. Doll Bilby, outcast in this rigid Puritan society, seen as a witch from her earliest yearscombined with her shattering memories of her parents’ violent deathis driven into a “witch frenzy.”
This makes for gripping reading and can be favorably compared to Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible (1952); but this tale is told from the woman’s point of view.
“. . . a book with a distinct flavor, a book of so much individuality and beauty that it will be widely read and recommended.”New York Times Book Review
“The atmosphere of the book is entirely true to the seventeenth century. And the characters which move in this atmosphere are clearly and delicately drawn.”Edith Oliver, Saturday Review of Literature
“It is a remarkable piece of work, a thing of beauty in itself, and a subtle study of a strange and hectic period in our history.”Chicago Tribune
“This is a terrific novel, a marvelous novel, a page from history torn ruthlessly open and thrust before our eyes.”I.W. Lawrence, Boston Transcript
“She has held up not only a mirror for witches, but a magic reflection of New England’s past.”Katherine Anne Porter, The New Republic