nonfiction by Diane E. Foulds< read all 2 reviews
If one has never read anything before on the Salem witch trials, Death in Salem would be a good book to start off with, because it is not an academic book, per se, with a plethora of narrowly focused theories as to why the Salem witch drama happened - and there are a sundry lot of possible causes - in example, the Ergot poisoning theory, the PTSD theory stemming from Indian attacks, the conflicts between Salem Town versus Salem Village or the societal repression of the girls, who were the primary accusers in the drama. I’m sure there are other theories, too. Rather, this book gives a grand biographic summary of the specific players; it is divided into sections labeled: The Accusers, the Victims, The Clergy, The Judges and The Elite. Also listed at the back of the book is a list of those who were accused and who were eventually released or died while under incarceration. Under the headings of these sections, Foulds does an excellent job in her succinct use of historical documentation, culling out what is germane and using it in recreating the lives of the individuals and in assessing why a person would possibly fall under the specific heading. Each profile consists of perhaps five to six pages, at best, perhaps even a little more, but it is enough to whet the appetite. By giving a survey of the specific person, the social, religious and political milieu of the times are naturally brought into play, for you really can’t have one without the others. For me, they are all inherently interlocked. While I myself already had a good understanding of the Salem drama (I live not too far from the cities of Salem and Danvers and have visited the historical sites many times), I didn’t think that I’d like this work or be wowed by it. What caught me, above all else, was how the work was structured and how the players were categorized; it really gave this book a great cohesiveness that I have not read in other works that address the same subject. There are other works out there, to be sure, that focus on the particulars, like the sociological, religious, economic and political components, but in trying to understand the complexity of theories, it is, foremost, paramount to understand the reality of the people in which these theories are applied to. These were real flesh and blood folks who lived a real human experience, and I think Diane Foulds captures that spirit quite accurately with Death in Salem.
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