A Secret History of Witches
Written by Louisa Morgan
Review by Jarad Johnson
The multigenerational novel takes us through five generations of witches, the Orchiere from 1821 France to England in WWII. The novel shows the reader a brief history of each woman, usually around the time she inherits her power, which is passed from mother to daughter. But, I have to say, for this to be a book about witches, there is surprisingly little magic in the novel, and the witches in the novel don’t seem to use their power all that much. I was curious about this, and after some googling, I found an interview in which the author called the sort of things we would normally associate with witches like cauldrons, broomsticks, spell casting, etc, “easy magic” and that “Their craft represents knowledge, and power, and the thing some people fear most in women—independence.” I actually really like this approach to witchcraft. (Of course, I still would have liked more magic to appear in the novel.) The novel has a strong feminist core, that comes to the forefront when the mothers insist that their daughters understand how their magic gives them power.
Overall, I would say that I enjoyed this novel, but it’s less about witches and more about the relationships between mothers and daughters and themes of family. Since it is a multigenerational novel, one that details multiple stories over many generations, it runs the risk of disconnecting the reader from the characters’ individual stories. I did experience a disconnect with characters that I was less invested in. I also found many of their lives to be repetitive, and the brief glimpses into their lives unfortunately did not allow for any in-depth characterization. I liked the book, but I expected and wanted so much more from it. The plot of the novel is compelling, and the writing immediately drew me in, but ultimately, I was left wishing I had read a slightly different book. Maybe this will open the door to full, intricate stories in this world of witches!
Jarad is the co-administrator and writer for Sacred Chickens, attends college at MTSU, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad is an English major. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!