May 10, 2018

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

6388239I just finished reading this book for the second time this month, and I'm determined to review it before the library demands its property back. :P

I grew up hearing about this book. I mean, you know, it's one of those award winning books you see in the children's section at every library ever, but I never looked into it. a) I didn't know anyone who recommended it, and b) it said "witch" in the title, so....I had lots of other things to read that didn't sound iffy.

But when I heard about it via Olivia's lovely post I knew I had to read it. And I don't even think I was half way through reading it when I knew I had found a new favorite book friend. :)

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare isn't about a witch at all. It's about a girl whose grandfather dies, leaving her with no alternative but to travel to New England and make a new life for herself with her Puritan relatives, a strict and joyless group of people she finds nearly intolerable to be with.

It's about her friendship with an old woman everyone else would shun, merely because of her Quaker faith.

It's a story about understanding others despite different beliefs, about family and friends, and doing the right thing, even when those closest to you think it's wrong.

From the first, I related to Kit's intense dislike for Puritan behavior. From the minute she sees America for the first time, she is struck by how gray and gloomy the people are, in dress and conduct and manner. When she proves she can swim by rescuing a toy for a crying child, she is instantly thought of as foolish and thoughtless. Her ability to swim—a rare skill in Puritan New England—prompts people to suspect her of more heavy crimes than foolishness: witchcraft.

Of course, Kit is disgusted with this narrow view and so was I. I've always had a hard time being patient with Christians (usually in books or movie, haha, I haven't known many in real life thankfully) who think life should be dull and solemn and that any bit of colorful joy is a probably a sin.

*grits teeth* UGH. No.

Kit further clashes with her new family, especially her stern Uncle Matthew. From the beginning, he is cold and distant and stern with her. He refuses to allow his daughters—Kit's cousins—to accept Kit's gifts of pretty gowns and gloves. He forces Kit to attend Meeting (church), and sneers at her fine clothing, something he sees as nothing but vanity. He begrudges her presence, and treats her with a manner only short of contempt.

Spoiler alert. I was totally prepared to dislike Uncle Matthew throughout the entire story. But this book turned my expectations upside down and taught me, alongside Kit, that there is much more to a person than their initial actions. I actually came away from this story feeling humbled—because as Kit was learning to understand and respect her uncle, (for reasons I won't go into because of spoilers) I was, too. And I found that amazing. A story that can help you see someone else's point of view is rare and special. I still don't agree with everything Matthew Wood supported—but I don't dislike him anymore. I may even consider him a favorite character now.


Thankfully for Kit, she finds like-minded friends to encourage her and lift her up. One of them was Hannah Tupper, an old Quaker woman who dries childrens' tears with blueberry cake and kittens. The other is Nat, a seafaring young man whom she met on her voyage to America.

*smiles and suppresses a squeal*

Nat. NAT. I just....words fail to describe how much I really like Nat. ;)

I found it super cool that there were different guys in Kit's life, all of them gentlemanly and nice and good in their own way. It seems like usually whenever there's a story with "multiple love interest possibilities", one is shown as "ahh so amazing there's not even a choice HE IS THE ONE"....and the rest are shown as jerks. Besides being slightly unrealistic, this also makes the heroine's choice a little less exciting and interesting. :P

But in this story, it's clear that any of the young men Kit knows are nice young men—but all three have startling different personalities. William is staid and steady, John studious and kind, and Nat a bit of an unconventional adventurer. None of the boys are shown as infinitely superior. They all have strengths and failings. But only one is right for Kit.

*spoilers* 
And that is of course Nat who is the legit best. Yes, I know I just said all the boys are just as good as each other, blah blah, and it's true, but it's also true Nat is the best, so there.

(I never claimed to be logical. :P)

This boy is a bit mocking, a bit standoffish, and unruffled by what others think. But he's got a heart of gold, a determined spirit, and I love him to bits and pieces. I mean, CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW HE BRINGS HANNAH CORAL AND MOLASSES AND CUTE FIREWOOD FOR HER AND THATCHES HER ROOF?? *melts*
*end spoilers*
this guy totally reminds me of Nat, sans the medieval armor :P

Anyways.....'hem. Let me talk about Kit's other friend, Hannah Tupper, the "Witch of Blackbird Pond" herself. Hannah is a steadfast, kind old woman who lives alone by Blackbird Pond. She is shunned by nearly everyone in the surrounding area, merely because of her Quaker faith.

Now, I have no clue of what the particulars were that made Puritans and Quakers disagree so strongly. (It probably said it in the book...but now I forget. :P) But whatever their differences, if these two groups are trusting in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as their one and only Savior....then they are one in Christ. Everything else doesn't matter compared with that. It reminds me of a saying my dad likes to quote:

"in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity."

(I tried to google who said it originally, but it seems to be rather unknown. Augustine seems a popular choice, though.)

Yeah. I don't think the people of Wethersfield had heard of that quote. :P

Long story short, it's Hannah who is thought to be a witch, and when illness strikes the town of Wethersfield, a group of angry people look to her as the cause. Kit too is soon drawn into the trouble, due to her unwavering friendship with Hannah and her own involvement in the life of one of the village children, Prudence. She is accused of teaching Prudence witchcraft that she learned from Hannah, when all Kit ever did was befriend the lonely child and teach her to read and write.

Now, my lips are sealed as to the rest of the story. Read it yourself to find out what happens. :) But, before I end this post, let me mention just a few other things...

•The writing style is simple and matter of fact, and yet beautiful phrases line the pages. Behold some of my favorites:

In October any wonderful unexpected thing might be possible.
~
The girl looked about her. "'Tis a pretty room," she said without thinking, and then wondered how that could be, when it was so plain and bare. Perhaps it was only the sunlight on boards that were scrubbed smooth and white, or perhaps it was the feeling of peace that lay across the room as tangibly as the bar of sunshine.
~
"...thee has never escaped at all if love is not there."


I loved Kit's methods of teaching school with Mercy, and I was very frustrated that she was chastised by the schoolmaster simply for having the children act out a Bible story. She was bringing the children a new perspective on learning, one of joy and enthusiasm....and then the rigid Puritan rules ruined it. #annoyed

•Referencing the above situation, Kit's patience astounded me. Granted, she had to go cry in the field and meet Hannah to gather the courage to apologize to the schoolmaster. But even before that, she exhibits more patience with her uncle and the other hardened Puritans than I would hope to have. Her self-control is inspiring.

•The way Nat acts like a stranger to Kit whenever she hurts or annoys him didn't fully sink in the first time I read the book, but I'm completely appreciating his passive-aggressive snark this time around. ;)

•Nat's pride in The Dolphin and later The Witch is too sweet. <3

•Speaking of sweet, I need to mention poor little Prudence and awww, her friendship with Kit. *happy feels* ♥♥♥

*The below points are all spoilers*

•A certain love-triangle-catastrophe upset me so much I had to take a break from reading the book for a few hours. You know what I mean.

John was going to ask for Mercy's hand and Judith ruinnnned itttt aghhh.

Actually, I guess if we included everyone who goes through some ups and downs in their romantic lives throughout this book, it'd really be a love hexagaon. Because boy, it gets messy before everything is sorted out at the end. :P (But I love it. The relationships in this story have some difficult moments, but it's presented in such a realistic, heartfelt way. It's not "dramatic" at all.)

•So, since I just mentioned John and Mercy, let's take a moment to *fangirl* because JOHN AND MERCY, GUYS. They are so adorable and perfect for each other ahhhhhhhhh. ♥♥♥
Between his line about "not wanting a wife to wait on him" and being perfectly willing to do for Mercy whatever she can't do herself and her understanding of why he had to go to the militia and their quiet love for each other despite everything being against them.....

And then he returns home and runs straight to her arms and...and..

I just....words fail. THESE TWO ARE SO SWEET AND PRECIOUS. Love without end, amen.

•William and Judith have their problems, but I'm super glad they ended up together. <3

•When Nat shows up at Kit's trial with Prudence. #yesss

•"When I take you on board The Witch, it's going to be for keeps." <3 <3 <3 

*end spoilers*

Weellll, is that it? I suppose it 'tis. ;) My end recommendation? READ THIS BOOK. It's appropriate for any age, is beautiful and powerful and special, and holds an important message for us all.

 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Have you read The Witch of Blackbird Pond? What did you think of it?
Who are your favorite characters?
What do you think is the message of this story?

10 comments:

  1. This is one of the classics that my grandparents love and I read it a looong time ago - don't think I was old enough to appreciate it then, but your review has made me want to dive right back into the pages!

    NAT IS THE BEST FOREVER AND EVER.

    I love how he comes back to the trial even though things could end very badly for him because of it.

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    Replies
    1. I hope you enjoy it a lot when you do reread it, Eva!! :D

      YESSSS. *high fives*

      I do too. :) Thanks for your comment!!

      Delete
  2. Ahhh! Another awesome review! Well done, Natalie. You're totally making me want to read this book again!! :D

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  3. Wonderful review!! Yes, yes, yes!!! :D

    I was happy when I saw this post on the Blogger reading list. ;D

    KIT AND NAT AND JOHN AND MERCY. That is all. Thank you and good night.

    No, seriously, though, I really need to re-read this book! It's been too long and I liked it SO much. And -- eeeep, you linked to my post! Thanks, fren. :) <3

    "And that is of course Nat who is the legit best." << HAHA, yes. I like it. ;D

    Okay but can we just agree that this book needs a movie?!?!

    Again, lovely review!! Thanks for writing it. :D <3

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    Replies
    1. I like how you hit on a lot of things in this review, yet somehow made it concise and focused at the same time. *nods* It's just very well-written, m'dear! :D And yes, that's an awesome saying, the one your dad uses.

      Delete
    2. Ahh, thank you! I am greatly indebted to you for introducing me to this book!!!

      SAME YES YES.

      Oooh, have fun reading it again when you do! Aww, yes, of course. :D

      Hee. :D

      *GASP* Yesssss. So, funny thing, I was intentionally envisioning this is a movie, especially when I read it for the second time. How has it NOT been made into a movie? It's just...so full of beautiful potential. *cries*

      Thank you!!!

      PS. D'AWWWW. THANKS, FRIEND. *hugs*

      Delete
  4. I love this book! Our Mom read it aloud to Grace and I for school, and it is a favorite! I love Nat, too! Your statement (about Nat being the best) preceding the fact that you never admitted to being logical- was perfectly logical to me! :)

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  5. Oh my word, I LOVE this book!! Nat is, indeed, the best. Definitely my favorite character; he's wonderful. :D

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  6. And I agree with everyone else here: THIS BOOK NEEDS A MOVIE.

    ReplyDelete

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