Witch trials are already a thing of the past in this historical novel set in Salem, Massachusetts during the lifetime of Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter. Witch trials are over; but their memory lives on in Hawthorne’s nineteenth century, with tensions lingering amongst the old Salem families and Hawthorne himself bearing ancestral guilt over his own great-great-grandfather's role in sentencing accused women to death more than a century earlier.
But Hawthorne is not front and center here. He is upstaged by a new immigrant from Scotland, Isobel Gamble, who becomes his lover and eventual model for Hester Prynne, heroine of The Scarlet Letter. This is not Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story. It is Isobel’s story; and despite the fact that she possesses no roots in the town of Salem, Isobel's story dovetails interestingly with Salem history due to a condition called synesthesia which positions her and many of her Scots ancestors squarely within the domain of hereditary witches.
Readers may already be familiar with synesthesia, as many of us experience a blending of data from one sense with impressions rooted in another: associating letters and numbers with colors, for example, or “seeing” the shapes of scents and sounds. But even without this personal connection, readers interested in women’s history, New England history, the textile arts (as Isobel supports herself with fine embroidery), and/or historical witchcraft will be likely to enjoy this extensively researched and carefully plotted new release: perfect for reading any time of year, but especially during the month of October!