Reviews for Six Women of Salem : The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials


Book News Reviews
Roach presents this study of the Salem Witch Trials, focusing on six women who were accused, accusers, or both, and came from a variety of social backgrounds within the colony. The book is written in a narrative style, with both factual events and fictionalized dialogue and internal monologue reconstructed as possible from historical documents, with occasional direct quotations from the original texts. The first part introduces the six women and their place in the colony. Then, the events of the trials are recounted from January 1692 to May 1693 in segments of just over a week to several months, interweaving the stories of all six in chronological order. Finally, the aftermath in the ensuing years is presented in relation to each woman, including many calls for exoneration and the current state of knowledge regarding the ultimate fates of each woman, her family, their property and social standing. Annotation ©2014 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)

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ForeWord Magazine Reviews 2013 - Winter Issue

Roach's work will shed new light on the Salem witch trials by showing how the accusers may have truly believed they were bewitched.

In her well-researched Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials, historian Marilynne K. Roach focuses on the lives of six Salem women at the center of the trials--some accused and some accusers. Her fact-based insight into these women's lives, along with the moments she breaks into short, fictionalized scenes, puts these lives into perspective, allowing readers to connect with the events in a way not afforded in other accounts of this period.

The first section of the book shows each woman's status within the village and the connections they have to one another. She also gives an account of their personal triumphs, as well as their hardships, such as suffering through beatings, miscarriage, and other loss. In the second section, Roach uses court reportage, handwritten notes from trial witnesses, and preserved documents to show the day-by-day progression of events and how the trials came to an end.

Throughout the text, Roach follows Bridget Bishop, survivor of an abusive marriage; Mary English, wealthy and well-educated; Rebecca Nurse, an ill, elderly woman; Ann Putnam, with a dwindling income and a daughter active in the accusations; Mary Warren, a young maid, desperate to marry; and Tituba, the minister's slave and the first to confess. Each woman has an important role from the first accusations to the first hangings, and Roach approaches the women's stories, whether accused or accuser, with the same in-depth research and insight.

Roach also offers possible explanations when there are no documented facts. She writes of the girls who had made the accusations of witchcraft: "And once the parents took the remarks as accusations and seconded them with their own belief, the girls might well think that adult approval proved the supposition and came to believe what, after all, had been a question rather than a certain statement." Though Roach does not claim these statements as truth, the explanations help readers see the possibilities behind the girls' actions.

Roach's work will shed new light on the Salem witch trials, not only by showing how the accusers may have truly believed they were bewitched and tortured, but also by making the innocent women come to life.

2013 ForeWord Reviews. All Rights Reserved.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 September #2
Roach (The Salem Witch Trials: A Day by Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, 2004) explores the lives of six women involved in the Salem witch trials. The author's deep knowledge of virtually every man, woman and child affected by the trials in this bizarre period tends to get in her way during the narrative. More than 200 people were accused of witchcraft in the mass hysteria, precipitated by a few pre-pubescent girls who suddenly developed seizures and blamed local women. Curiously, many of the afflicted had feuded with the accusers' families. Tituba, a Caribbean slave, was accused and fearfully told them what they wanted to hear: that she'd signed Satan's book. Then she named names, since they expected it, feeding the fury. Anyone with a grudge could suddenly remember an evil eye or a sudden death and cast blame. Roach gives too much background on superfluous accusations that really didn't affect the six primary subjects. The specially called Court of Oyer and Terminer asked each of the accused the same questions over and over, ignoring pleas and even proofs of innocence. Hearings were distracted as victims collapsed upon seeing the accused. One girl was found to have brought pins to stab herself and blame the accused; no doubt this was not an isolated incident. Twenty-eight were condemned. In 1711, 22 of those were pardoned, way too late for those who had already been executed. Had Roach been stricter in adhering to the stories of the six women, without naming all the other accused, the book would have provided better insight into a strange period. As it is, there is just too much information, too many asides, too much confusion and too many victims. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 December #1

From early 1692 until mid-1693, accusations of witchcraft, based on fear, prejudice, resentment, and unexplainable illnesses, affected hundreds of lives in and around Salem, MA. After 20 executions, changing public sentiment caused officials to desist, and the frenzy abated significantly. Independent historian and illustrator Roach has produced a book similar to her The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege but that focuses intently on the lives of six women of varied backgrounds--four accused, one accuser, and one mother of an accuser: Bridget Bishop, Mary English, Rebecca Nurse, Tituba, Mary Warren, and Ann Putnam--each trapped in her role by fear and pressure. With minimal analysis or criticism, Roach animates information woven together from court records, trial notes, diaries, vital records, sermon notes, and family lore in a successful attempt to personalize their lives, drawing the reader away from commonly believed stereotypes and sensational folklore. Brief imagined passages by Roach on what individuals might have thought and experienced introduce each chapter. VERDICT The book often has a tedious level of detail and can confuse, yet these qualities mirror the tangled and turbulent period itself and effectively immerse readers in its terrifying reality. For consideration by both popular and professional Salem witch trial enthusiasts.--Margaret Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY

[Page 111]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 October #3

Roach (The Salem Witch Trials) makes history more accessible in her latest book on the infamous mass hysteria that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692-1693, resulting in the executions of 20 supposed "witches," and the accusations of about 200. Roach successfully constructs first-person narratives from the perspectives of six real Salem women--both accusers and accused. This style of narrative provides an intimacy with the Salem people without feeling too fictionalized or overdone. Roach draws on a number of primary and secondary documents to illuminate every detail of the Salem witch trials, while duly paying respect to the victims of these horrific trials. She lays out the facts, but avoids speculation or further analysis. This book is easily digestible even for those who stray away nonfiction, yet readers still reap the benefits of Roach's thorough researched and expertise on the subject. (Sept.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Roach (The Salem Witch Trials) makes history more accessible in her latest book on the infamous mass hysteria that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692-1693, resulting in the executions of 20 supposed "witches," and the accusations of about 200. Roach successfully constructs first-person narratives from the perspectives of six real Salem women--both accusers and accused. This style of narrative provides an intimacy with the Salem people without feeling too fictionalized or overdone. Roach draws on a number of primary and secondary documents to illuminate every detail of the Salem witch trials, while duly paying respect to the victims of these horrific trials. She lays out the facts, but avoids speculation or further analysis. This book is easily digestible even for those who stray away nonfiction, yet readers still reap the benefits of Roach's thorough researched and expertise on the subject. (Sept.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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