The Manningtree Witches

by A.K. Blakemore


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Published by Granta Books

Published October 2021

Books > Fiction > Staff Picks

It’s 1643 and Manningtree’s male population has been depleted by the Civil War. With the Puritanical regime taking hold and the world seemingly turned on its head, the scene is set for the arrival of Matthew Hopkins, the so-called Witchfinder General. For women like Rebecca West, just about surviving on the edge of acceptable society, there could hardly be a worse turn of events.

The fact that Blakemore’s story is set in the small, Essex town of Manningtree does make it more pertinent but, even so, this is historical fiction at its very best. There’s no sugar-coating or romanticising here, this novel is dark, disturbing and completely absorbing; it gets under the skin and into the subconscious. In exploring the numerous and complex reasons for the witch hunt, Blakemore does justice to the past, and to the victims, while also speaking frankly to the present.

A word of warning: don’t read this one too close to bedtime – I gave myself more than one nightmare about being rounded up and accused!


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