Delighted to welcome Nancy Kilgore from Vermont, with her books to the Cafe and Bookstore. Today I am featuring her most recent release in August 2021, Bitter Magic: Inspired by the stgory of a confessed witch.
About the book
Bitter Magic, inspired by the true story of Isobel Gowdie and her witchcraft confession, reveals a little-known corner of history—the lives of both pagan and Protestant women in the Scottish Reformation of the 1600s as witch trials and executions threatened their lives, values, and beliefs.
The story is told by Isobel herself and also by Margaret Hay, a fictionalized seventeen-year-old noble woman. When Margaret stumbles across Isobel one day, it seems as though Isobel is commanding the dolphins in the ocean to dance. Margaret is enchanted. She becomes interested in Isobel’s magic, in fairies, and in herbal remedies; Isobel freely shares her knowledge. While Margaret worries that being around Isobel could be dangerous, she also respects Isobel’s medical successes and comes to believe that acknowledging the efficacy of herbal remedies or believing in fairies does not challenge her Christianity.
But Isobel believes in more than cheery fairies and herbal medicine. She has dark wishes as well, unknown to most people. Isobel seeks vengeance against the local lord who executed her mother for witchcraft. More important, Isobel’s trance experiences (or are they dreams?) lead her to confess to a wide range of sins, including consorting with the devil. Then, during her trial, Isobel names thirteen others, calling them all witches. To her great shock, Margaret hears her own name. Can her tutor, a Christian mystic named Katharine, save them?
One of the five star reviews for the book on Goodreads
Such an interesting historical novel of witchcraft and magic in Scotland, 1662, based on the author’s own distant family history and a time of unrest, suspicion, and social and religious tension. Filled with poetic and detailed descriptions of the landscape, the day to day life, the history, and the inner thoughts of the characters, this is a beautifully written story. Each chapter takes on the point of view of one of the main characters, from Margaret, the teenage daughter of a laird, to Isobel Gowdie, the “cunning woman” who has the skill and magic to both heal and harm, and several others who help to weave the story lines.
There are times when the story turns dark and disturbing. A deeply patriarchal society frightened and suspicious of strong women with powerful practices is a theme that still has resonance in current times. The author’s personal interests and professional experience help provide a nuanced look at the conflict between religion of the time and lingering ancient beliefs and practices. An overview at the end of the book is helpful to read before delving in, describing each character, the places, and some of the history. There are also references and links available for more information on the witch trials of the period and of Isobel Gowdie herself. Last of all, it has beautiful cover art, and a helpful hand-drawn map of the location in Scotland
Also by Nancy Kilgore
About Nancy Kilgore
Nancy Hayes Kilgore, winner of the Vermont Writers Prize, is the author of BITTER MAGIC (Sunbury Press, 2021,) a historical novel inspired by the witchcraft trial of Isobel Gowdie in 1662 Scotland. Previous novels include WILD MOUNTAIN (Green Writers Press, 2017,) and SEA LEVEL (RCWMS, 2012,) a ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year. Formerly a parish pastor and psychotherapist focusing on mindfulness, in her writing Nancy likes to explore the spiritual lives of women and how beliefs and values clash and collide in a community. She lives in Vermont with her husband, dog, and cat.
Thanks for dropping in today and it would be great if you could spread the news about Nancy’s latest release… thanks Sally.