Review: Six Women of Salem, The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials – Marilynne K. Roach

Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials by Marilynne K. Roach

Publisher: Da Capo Press (September 3, 2013)

Print Length: 445 pages

Audiobook Length: 17 hrs and 8 mins

Narrator: Kate Reading

Six Women of Salem is the first work to use the lives of a select number of representative women as a microcosm to illuminate the larger crisis of the Salem witch trials. By the end of the trials, beyond the twenty who were executed and the five who perished in prison, 207 individuals had been accused, 74 had been “afflicted”, 32 had officially accused their fellow neighbors, and 255 ordinary people had been inexorably drawn into that ruinous and murderous vortex, and this doesn’t include the religious, judicial, and governmental leaders. All this adds up to what the Rev. Cotton Mather called “a desolation of names.”

The individuals involved are too often reduced to stock characters and stereotypes when accuracy is sacrificed to indignation. And although the flood of names and detail in the history of an extraordinary event like the Salem witch trials can swamp the individual lives involved, individuals still deserve to be remembered and, in remembering specific lives, modern readers can benefit from such historical intimacy. By examining the lives of six specific women, Marilynne Roach shows readers what it was like to be present throughout this horrific time and how it was impossible to live through it unchanged.

The Review

While a unique take on the saturated subject of the Salem Witch Trials, Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials by Marilynne K. Roach gets it wrong when the author chooses to sprinkle in as fact.

Roach made many great choices when it came to putting together Six Women of Salem, one of which being the way in which she structured the book. A book told in three parts, Six Women of Salem is told by looking at the history of the women, what happened to them during the trials, and what became of them once the hysteria had died down. This structure made the 445 page book more accessible, and allowed for a much cleaner narrative for each of the six women. It also allowed Roach the ability to introduce theories of why and how something like the witch trials could have occurred that I hadn’t really though of in my previous introductions with the subject.

What choice of Roach’s that I didn’t very much care for was her interjection of fiction in conjunction with the facts. She chooses to divulge into what these women could have been thinking via imaginary dialog, which I felt was incredibly confusing. You can tell that Roach is interested in the subject matter she writes about, and that a great deal of research went into the development of the book, so to then bog it down with ‘what if’s’ felt like taking away from how much work went into composing such a definitive history.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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And those are my thoughts on  Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials by Marilynne K. Roach. Have any non-fiction recommendations you think I should check out? Leave them as a comment below and help my TBR grow.

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