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Okay, let's just begin with the assumption that I--a straight Christian adult male--am not the target audience for this book. It's the tale of Yale historian Diana Bishop, who turns out to be from an extremely important and powerful family in the witching world, which has long operated alongside us humans. When she checks a book out of the Bodelian Library at Oxford she sets in motion a chain of events that bring her a vampire lover, Matthew Clairmont, and sets them and various allies from the hidden communities of witches, vampires and demons against others who want the book and do not want the love of Diana and Matthew to bear fruit. It's a well written adventure--if too leisurely-paced--that might best be described as Harry Potter from women...who own cats.

Indeed, Ms Harkness has explained that she was motivated to write the book in part because of the popularity of the genre,
    -INTERVIEW: Deborah Harkness' 'A Discovery of Witches' started with airport bookstores: What the historian saw indicated a continued fascination with monsters humans used to believe were real. And that got her thinking. (Scott Timberg, 4/10/11, Los Angeles Times)
While vacationing in Puerto Vallarta in fall 2008, USC professor Deborah Harkness, a historian of science, was consumed with the upcoming bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth, but the rest of the world, including the airport in the Mexican resort city, was gripped by a madness spread by vampires: The last of Stephenie Meyer's four "Twilight" novels had just been published.

"To walk through the airport was to be hit with vampires, witches, ghosts and demons at every angle in the bookstores," says Harkness, a good-humored and enthusiastic woman of 46, over a cappuccino in Pasadena.

"It was so huge — it seemed to me much bigger than what had happened with Anne Rice. And as a historian of science, trapped in Puerto Vallarta during what turned out to be the rainy season, I thought, 'Why do these creatures still exert such a pull on us?' "
The whole thing felt to her like a throwback — a throwback of 450 years. "People believed that the supernatural and the natural existed, intermingled. We think of ourselves as having very little in common with people in 1558. And yet there were walls of this stuff. What if 16th century people were right, and the supernatural and natural coexisted? How would that play out? It started out almost like a kind of logic problem."
I too am a throwback, but to the pre-Ann Rice days, when the point of vampires in fiction was to drive stakes through their hearts and when witches were not to be suffered to live but to be burned at somewhat larger stakes. So I was rooting for Van Helsing, Father Karras, Blade and a few witch hammers to show up and get medieval on the Satan spawn. But, as I said, the book probably wasn't written with me in mind....


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (C+)

  

Websites:

See also:

Horror
Deborah Harkness Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Deborah Harkness
    -FACULTY PAGE: Deborah Elizabeth Harkness, Professor of History (USC)
    -AUTHOR BLOG: Good Wine Under $20
    -BOOK SITE: Deborah Harkness (Viking/Penguin Books)
    -GOOGLE BOOK: Discovery of Witches
    -AUDIO: Deborah Harkness And A Discovery Of Witches (OnPoint, 3/04/11)
    -INTERVIEW: Deborah Harkness' 'A Discovery of Witches' started with airport bookstores: What the historian saw indicated a continued fascination with monsters humans used to believe were real. And that got her thinking. (Scott Timberg, 4/10/11, Los Angeles Times)
While vacationing in Puerto Vallarta in fall 2008, USC professor Deborah Harkness, a historian of science, was consumed with the upcoming bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth, but the rest of the world, including the airport in the Mexican resort city, was gripped by a madness spread by vampires: The last of Stephenie Meyer's four "Twilight" novels had just been published. "To walk through the airport was to be hit with vampires, witches, ghosts and demons at every angle in the bookstores," says Harkness, a good-humored and enthusiastic woman of 46, over a cappuccino in Pasadena. "It was so huge — it seemed to me much bigger than what had happened with Anne Rice. And as a historian of science, trapped in Puerto Vallarta during what turned out to be the rainy season, I thought, 'Why do these creatures still exert such a pull on us?' " The whole thing felt to her like a throwback — a throwback of 450 years. "People believed that the supernatural and the natural existed, intermingled. We think of ourselves as having very little in common with people in 1558. And yet there were walls of this stuff. What if 16th century people were right, and the supernatural and natural coexisted? How would that play out? It started out almost like a kind of logic problem."

    -INTERVIEW: Q&A with Deborah Harkness, USC Prof and Author of 'A Discovery of Witches' (LAist, 2/20/11)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview With Writer Deborah Harkness (Marissa Bell Toffoli, February 14, 2011, Words with Writers)
    -INTERVIEW: with Deborah Harkness (Bookreporter, February 18, 2011)
    -AUDIO: The Book Show #1178 - Deborah Harkness (Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, 2011-02-15, WAMC)
    -INTERVIEW: Finding magic in a science-obsessed world (Interview By Stephenie Harrison, Book Page)
    -INTERVIEW: Deborah Harkness Bibliography & Interview (Love Vampires)
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-REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (Elizabeth Hand, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Nick Owchar, LA Times)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Neda Ulaby, NPR)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Sarah Willis, Cleveland Plain Dealer)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Kestrell, Green Man Review)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Samantha Holloway, NY Journal of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Jenny Turner, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Neal Wyatt , Library Journal)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Jenn Kane, Long Island Press)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Karen Valby, Entertainment Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (John Williford, Miami Herald)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Nisi Shawl, Seattle Times)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Chuck Leddy, Boston Globe
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Carol Memmott, USA TODAY)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Vivian Nereim, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Todd VanDerWerff, AV Club)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (Christine N. Ziemba, Paste)
    -REVIEW: of Discovery of Witches (SANDRA KASTURI , Globe and Mail)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: for Discovery of Witches (ReviewsOfBooks)
    -REVIEW: of Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science by Deborah Harkness (Bulletin of the History of Medicine)

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