Bookish Discussions

The Furies | Murder, Witchcraft & Secret Societies

IMG_0363Last October I entered a competition on Katie Lowe’s Twitter to win a signed copy of her debut novel, The Furies, and, for once in my life, I actually won!

The Furies has been on my radar since it came out.

Set in a late 90s private school, the new girl, Violet, is obsessed with joining this elusive group of girls. Finally infiltrating the group, she is drawn into a world of secret societies, murder and witchcraft.

Doesn’t that just sound amazing?

It’s the history behind the private school that really drew me in. It was built on the grounds where witches would be persecuted during King James I of England’s reign – the time where basically every woman or Catholic was burned alive. Lowe didn’t just focus on a certain type of witch – mainly the occult witch – but drew on a long line of literary witches to write a fantastic story, looking at revenge, obsession and cult fantasies.

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Bookish Discussions

The Familiars aka My Dream Book:

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I just knew I would love this.

It’s about witches, set in Lancashire, involving a fox, with greenery on the cover. It’s me to a T.

I just didn’t expect to love it *this* much.

Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance, she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help deliver her baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft. Is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

We all know witches are My Shit. I love reading about them. I like to see how witches are characterised throughout history, which literature luckily documents. From a 21st-century perspective, with movements like #MeToo in mind, writers take on the image of the witch in a very different way than their ancestors. Stacey Halls questions how we view the witch.

Just because a woman is skilled, bold and authoritative, does that mean she is a witch?

Does an unorthodox woman – one who does not adhere to patriarchal standards and who actively defies their husband – count as a witch? Should she be punished?

Halls, from both a historical and modern perspective, tackles the ever-present debate that surrounds the image of the witch. Are they supernatural or elemental? Are they just working-class women, or can they also be middle-class? Is witchcraft just a woman’s craft? Does deformity equal witchery?

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Bookish Discussions

Witchy Book Recommendations:

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It’s spooky season and I want to talk about it.

I thought, because I love witches so much, I would do a post tailored to witchy reads.

Admittedly, I haven’t read that many. I started making a real dint in witchy books this year thanks to my dissertation, but I have stumbled across enough to have found myself some new favourites.

Not all these are spooky, but they all look at the witch in some way. All of them question how we view the witch, and how the witch falls into a long line of literary traditions.

At the top of my list is William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It was one the very first texts I read that involved witches. It’s full of tension, prophecies, greed and despair. It may be Shakespeare’s shortest play, but I think it has the most to it. It’s so enjoyable, both on page and on stage, and I can never get enough of how the Bard depicts the witches. They are powerful forces of nature, who chant around cauldrons, thrive of the environment, and who are essentially evil.

There is no goodness to Shakespeare’s witches.

Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in response to King James’ suspicion of witches. He hated them, wanted them exiled from his land, and Shakespeare catered his depiction towards this sentiment. They represent chaos, darkness and despair. They foretell the future, but we don’t know if they control Macbeth’s fate or are merely agents in it. I think Shakespeare does some interesting things with the three witches, especially considering the historical context. Honestly? A must read.

Carrying on in the same vein, we have two books set during King James’ reign, Stacey Halls’ The Familiars and Tracy Borman’s The King’s Witch.

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