Wednesday, August 6, 2008
In the 16th century, a great famine ravages the town of Tierkinddorf, Germany. As the villagers slowly starve, a ruthless Dominican friar arrives. He has been on a mission, travelling from location to location to town to purge Germany of witches. The villagers are desperate to blame the famine on someone or something.
Gude, an old woman, lives with her only son, Jost the miller, his wife Irmeltrud, and their children Alke and Mattern. Irmeltrud deeply resents having to share what little food they have with her old mother-in-law and is cruel-hearted towards her behind Jost’s back.
Meanwhile, the witch hunt continues and Kunne, the village healer and herbalist and Gude’s dearest friends is accused of witchcraft. She is blamed for turning milk sour and for someone’s hen refusing to lay eggs. Gude can do nothing as she watches her friend burned at the stake on false accusations. And still, the famine continues.
While Jost is away hunting for food with several other men from the village, suspicion and hatred turn and point on Gude, fuelled by the false testimony of her own daughter-in-law, Irmeltrud. The accusation lands Gude in the witch’s tower to await trial. Soon, the witch hunt turns upon Irmeltrud when a barren neighbour blames her for witchery to claim the children as her own.
Sprinkled with elements of paganism, mystical dreams, dementia, and hatred, Erika Mailman explores the effect of starvation and fear upon the human spirit in this marvellous novel about witch trials in the late middle ages. Mailman’s passion for witches and witch trials is born from her own heritage where one of her own ancestors was accused of witchcraft during the early years of American history. A deeply moving book which churns the emotions and keeps you turning the pages.