Review: Father of Lies

It’s 1692 in Salem, MA and young girls are starting to have fits of hallucinations and sickness. They blame their maladies on witches, and it turns into a mass hysteria. The time, setting, and names will be familiar to anyone who has read about the Salem Witch Trials. Within this historical period, though, is a new player: Lidda. Lidda begins seeing and hearing the devil, but her experiences are different than the other girls in town. She questions her own sanity, and whether the rest of them are telling the truth about their visions. Does Lidda really see the devil? Or is she suffering from bipolar disorder? Are the rest of the girls seeing what she sees, or are their lies causing the deaths of their townspeople?

Ann Turner’s Father of Lies captures the time period well. She depicts the importance of religion, the roles of women in society, the politics and legal system of the town. (She also portrays the horrifying infrequency of baths.) The details are rich, and the ambiguity of Lidda’s situation is an intriguing twist on the usual Salem With Trial story, but I would have liked to see even more variation from the norm. One of the things that I love about historical fiction like Revolution is the completely new perspective on a period that has already been written about millions of times. It’s hard to find a fresh take on something inherently old, and at times I found myself skimming because I already knew too much of what was going on.

This time period is one I have always been extremely interested in, but it is perhaps my overfamiliarity that caused Father of Lies to be a bit too slow for me to truly appreciate. For those interested in learning about the witch trials, this would be a wonderfully descriptive and thought-provoking primer, but I’ll stick to The Crucible when I want to return to my favorite portrayal of this era in history.

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