My ability to read at any speed and remember what I have read, seem to diminish day by day. Maybe that is being a little melodramatic, but it has taken me 4 weeks to read two novels; The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman and The Lost Book of Salem by Katherine Howe.
The plots of both books are set between two time zones. The Lost Book of Salem was set in 1692, the time of the witch hunts in Salem and the same place in the present day. As the title already states the story surrounds a lost book and Connie or maybe I should say Constance.
It is Connie’s last year of her doctorate and she needs a good historical subject to base it on, but when her mother, Grace, asked her to go and try and sort through her Grandmother’s cottage so that it can be sold. It was not the summer Connie was hoping for and arriving at the cottage to find no electricity and barely any running water, but years of dust and grime does not make Connie feel any better. However once whilst looking for something to read she comes across an old Bible and out of the Bible falls a key and rolled up in the barrel of the key is a slip of paper and on the paper the words Deliverance Dane.
Once Connie finds out that Deliverance Dane was one of the last women to be tried and hung as a witch she searches out any and all information on her. It is only when Connie finds Deliverance had written a book which was listed in her will as an ‘Almanac’. Connie tracks the Almanac through the generations as she begins to unravel the story behind the book and the people connected to it.
No spoilers on my blog. If you want to know more you need to read the book. Apparently the book has a different title in the USA, it’s called ‘The Physicks Book of Deliverance Dane. I loved the people, the history and the story, which I was swept away on. Although it took me nearly three weeks to read it was worth every minute.
Thomas Bayber is or was a famous artist, but now at 70 he hides himself away and is not well. However there is something he must do to make peace with himself and with the lives of the Kessler sisters, Natalie and Alice. This book is all about the secrets that we keep, the ones we think we will never need to reveal, but the ones that always haunt us until they do.
In 1972 Thomas Bayber meets Natalie, then seventeen and her sister Alice, then fourteen, at a lake side retreat. He is as yet unknown but has been sent away to think about his life and what he wants to do with it, I think is the best way to describe things. However he already knows what he wants to be, an artist, a painter in fact. However his parents are not on his side.
In 2007 Bayber requests that his friend Finch come and see him and bring along Stephen a young man down on his luck after a bad mistake in the art world. Bayber tells them there is another painting that needs valuing and selling. However when Stephen looks over the painting he comes to realise that the painting is one of three, that are all connected to one another. Bayber wants Finch to not only find the paintings but the sister’s too. Finch is reluctant to take on the task but young Stephen has other ideas, because if the paintings can be found and then sold he will not only be rich but will also have his good name restored in the art world.
Natalie, head strong and beautiful and Alice, shy and plain have long since gone into hiding. The book traces what has happened to these sisters through the 35 years. What it is that holds all three people together and where are the painting that belong either side of the painting Bayber still as?
This is a book about love in all its forms. It is also about forgiveness. Forgiving oneself for past mistakes and knowing you have been forgiven in the end. It is also about all those secrets we all have that we believe no one else knows about, but there is always someone even if we don’t know it. This book as a beautiful cover to pull you in, in the first place and then it a beautiful read from beginning to end. If I could have carried it on the end of my nose so I could read as I went I would have done. This is a debut novel and I am looking forward for the next one.