'The Witch in the Well'


I really can’t post a review of a book that came out in 2004, but I was a faithful reader of Sharan Newman’s Catherine LeVendeur stories for years, and was really irked to realize I had missed The Witch in the Well, which I think wraps up the series.

This 10th installment of the stories set in 12th-century France finds Catherine and her family traveling to the castle of her grandfather in Blois. It seems similar summons went to others in the family too, including Catherine’s estranged sister Agnes and their religious fanatic mother, who has spent the last 10 years cloistered.

Family legend has it that the family will thrive only as long as its well keeps flowing, and now it is drying up. It seems to have made the women barren, as there are no children in the place.

I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I am always happy to spend a little time with this well-drawn and intriguing family, which illustrates the often tense relationship between Christians and Jews at the time. On the other hand, the fantastical elements of the family legend are less satisfying and one of my favorite characters, Catherine’s father, is still off on a pilgrimage reconnecting with his Jewish roots. And a fair amount of the tension in the story is created when the characters are holed up in the castle waiting for an attack. Not so interesting, waiting for an attack.

Still, it’s nice to tie up some of the loose ends from this series, and Newman has certainly provided a lot of pleasure over the years.

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