Widdershins is inspired by the Newcastle witch trials where sixteen people were hanged. Despite being the largest mass execution of witches on a single day in England, these trials are not widely known about. In August 1650, 15 women and one man were hanged as witches after a Scottish witchfinder found them guilty of consorting with the devil. This notorious man was hired by the Puritan authorities in response to a petition from the Newcastle townsfolk who wanted to be rid of their witches.
Widdershins is told through the eyes of Jane Chandler, a young woman accused of witchcraft, and John Sharpe, the witchfinder who condemns her to death. Jane Chandler is an apprentice healer. From childhood, she and her mother have used herbs to cure the sick. But Jane soon learns that her sheltered life in a small village is not safe from the troubles of the wider world. From his father’s beatings to his uncle’s raging sermons, John Sharpe is beset by bad fortune. Fighting through personal tragedy, he finds his purpose: To become a witchfinder and save innocents from the scourge of witchcraft.
Recommended for anyone who has enjoyed Stacey Halls’ The Familiars, Beth Underdown’s The Witchfinder’s Sister, AK Blakemore’s The Manningtree Witches, Elizabeth Lee’s Cunning Women, Louisa Morgan’s A Secret History of Witches, Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate, Madeline Miller’s Circe, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, or Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches.