“A man also or a woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones, their blood shall be upon them.”
Why Did I Read This Book?
OK, I have to admit, the main reason I bought this book was because it is absolutely beautiful. The cover gets more and more detailed and exquisite the closer you look at it. It was quite a hefty book too but I have to say when I saw it in the shop, I was drawn to it. When I read the blurb, I fell more in love as it is written about something that is very close to home. Literally. I love any history but I specifically enjoy local history, so when I read the blurb and found out that it was about the Pendle witch trials, I got a little too excited about reading it.
What Did I Think?
I really enjoyed the story and I absolutely loved the character of Fleetwood. She has experienced a lot of things by the time we meet her in The Familiars. From losing her father at a young age, to being married off young to an old man, to being divorced and married to another rich man at the age of 12, to suffering with miscarriage after miscarriage. My heart breaks for her and you can feel the disappointment in herself when talking about her experiences.
When we meet her, she is yet again pregnant, and this time she’s determined more than ever to keep her and the baby alive. In those days, the ‘duty’ of a woman and a wife was to bear children and to produce an heir to keep the family name going. You can sense the importance of this from every character we meet, along with the despair of Fleetwood about not being able to fulfil her duty.
The book has a nice pace, with short chapters and each revealing something new about one of the characters. In my notes I’ve asked myself whether I like Fleetwood’s husband, Richard. In some parts of the story I admire how much he evidently loves and adores his wife but in other parts, I find myself disliking him. He is often too quick to disapprove of Fleetwood’s actions, even though she is doing her best to keep her, her baby and her friends safe.
We are introduced to a character called Alice later on in the book who helps Fleetwood back to health and gives Fleetwood the strength she needs to carry on. Yet you will have to decide for yourself whether she is a witch or not.
Although The Familiars is a fictional story, the character of Alice was actually a real woman who was arrested and held in prison as a suspected witch. What I love most about this story is that it is not entirely centred around the witch hunts themselves. We only hear about recent progress in the hunts and trials through conversations with friends that visit Fleetwood. I thought that this was a nice added touch by Stacey Halls, as it makes us understand what the general thinking of the public was when it came to witches. I loved finding out that Alice was in fact a real person, making the factual history of this local story feel closer to home than ever before.
I would highly recommend this book, it is a bit longer than I would have hoped for but Stacey Halls does a good job of keeping you interested. Her other book, The Foundling is out now and I for one cannot wait to read it. I’ve heard good things and bad. Some prefer The Foundling. Some people prefer The Familiars. I guess I’ll have to read it and let you know.