March’s selection The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. I’m sorry to say that I seemed to have misplaced my notes about our discussion, so I’m going to have to do this mostly from memory . . . thankfully I usually have a decent memory, especially about books that I enjoy. This book was chosen by Steeper Kristin and many of us saw the similarities between this and our October 2012 read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Both books follow academic ladies through their introduction to their family history as witches . . . the difference (we thought) was that Howe is able to convey a more interesting story in a much shorter book and she didn’t need vampires to do it.
That being said, there were some criticisms of Deliverance Dane. Some of us felt that it read like a first novel (which it is). The majority felt that any roughness in Howe’s style could be worked out and voiced an interest in reading some of her other works. Steeper Kristin pointed out that it is getting slightly tiresome to read the trope of the perfect grad student. Connie (like Diana in Witches and countless others) are at the top of their classes in prestigious schools in difficult areas of study. Several of the members of Read It & Steep have their master’s degree and voiced a desire for, just once, the opportunity to read about a grad student who is struggling or confused. My biggest complaint was that if Connie is so brilliant, she most certainly would have known that recipes were known as “receipts” in the past, especially considering her field of study. My master’s degree is in library science and even I knew that . . . side note: I had to change my recipe pinterest board from “Receipts” to “Yum Yums” since several friends pointed out the “mistake” I’d made in naming it. I thought I was witty. Seems not.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the only time this very smart woman shows obtuseness. We all felt it took her too long to come to the realization that Deliverance may have been an ancestor and realize the significance of her name being “Constance.” We all felt the “bad guy” was a bit blatantly bad. We all yelled at Connie to recognize the malevolence in the villain. Perhaps she would have been quicker on the uptake if there was a thick curling mustache and a damsel tied to train tracks . . .
However, unlike Discovery of Witches Howe was able to convey an interesting tale with a smattering of romance, making the story much more about Connie’s journey than her romance with, let’s face it, a doomed Sam. We felt that Howe’s description of the fates of several men who loved Dane women might have tipped off Connie that Sam wasn’t going to be safe. Also, her mother should certainly be a little less thrilled that Connie’s found love if she knows that men in their family don’t necessarily fare well . . . but you’ll have to read the book to know more about that.
All of us, without fail, loved the dog Arlo and the subtle twist of his character. We applaud Howe for how well thought out and presented a character as seemingly unimportant as the dog is. Arlo really added to Connie’s story and several of us found ourselves paging back and forth to re-read some of his story.
There is a part of the book where Sam and Connie visit a “mystic” shop and Connie is indignant about the state of the herbs and that they’re all expired. Several of us, myself foremost, lament that Connie would be appalled by the state of my own herbs. What can I say? I like my food bland.
Overall, Read It and Steep enjoyed The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and would recommend it as a quick and fun read. The mystery aspect isn’t as sharp as it could be, but it’s an enjoyable read anyway. I will say that we will re-read Howe or check out some of her other books since she not only retweeted one of our tweets but actually wrote to us! We geeked out and we give her massive props for being a cool, down-to-earth author.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane gets 4 teacups from us!