The Witchfinder’s Sister

A real life tale about an English witch-hunter

A witch hunt is happening in the 1600s in an otherwise sleepy English town and the culprit is called Matthew Hopkins. Based on the actual real life story of the witch-hunter, is a sensational novel, The Witchfinder’s Sister, attempting to piece together missing clues in Hopkins’ terrifying acts. To that end, Hopkins is made to have a fictional sister in the book, the widowed Alice who returns to Manningtree from London, following the death of her husband. Through Alice’s experiences of her brother’s misdeeds, the reader is able to gather a coherent idea of what drove Matthew to become a witch-hunter. At the height of religious fanaticism, there is a special book in the talks by Matthew, which lists names of many women. It is unclear if these names are suspected to be witches but Matthew and his comrades have already hanged somewhere around three hundred women, as part of the witch hunt. It was the biggest number of deaths since the last 160 years, and the scene of this event is set amidst a civil war and plenty of battlefield-related deaths.

Matthew, shockingly, is no longer the same person he was to his sister – he now has a fortune and it is suggestive that the Hopkins were born into an impoverished state. Matthew is also a grain merchant, with an enterprising nature and he has managed to turn his whole life around – previously, whilst growing up, he was the subject of other children’s ridicule because he was perceived to be odd. Alice, who has come to depend on her brother after her husband’s death in an accident, spends half of her time trying to be as less of a burden as possible to her brother, and the other half trying to figure out Matthew’s plans as a witch-hunter, and maybe even save herself and a loud and artless friend of their mother’s, Bridget, who is also her mother-in-law.

Matthew, who seemingly defying convention has managed to make himself a member of the upper class, with the accruing of wealth, is an emblem of how because of some people in it, the class can inextricably be associated with witch-hunters and witch-hunting. It’s not difficult to underline the reasons behind it because difference of behaviour in society might not always be looked at pleasantly but I suspect it’s more of the town’s circumstances than anything, which collides with the witch-hunter’s life and influences Matthew to change and keep the darkness alive. The book is at times mysterious, and at other times very raw in caricaturing disturbing elements of a famous witch-hunter. The tapestry of history associated with Matthew Hopkins, the witch-hunter, unravels beautifully and it is a thrilling story.

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