14th August 2014
If a witch tries to bewitch you, spit at her so that the spittle lands between her eyes. That will break the spell.
In The Vanishing Witch, the authentic feel of medieval England comes alive in a tale which thrives on intrigue and superstition. Effortlessly weaving supernatural elements with historical fact, the interpretation of the peasant’s revolt from its ungainly beginning in 1380, runs alongside the story of Robert of Bassingham, a wealthy Lincolnshire wool merchant, whose unwise relationship with an inscrutable widow, will have far reaching consequences. And, as the rich get richer, the disenchanted poor decide that the time to fight back is coming sooner rather than later.
Maitland’s command of the story really shines throughout the narrative. Beautifully written with an uncanny eye for detail, the peasant’s heroic struggles are convincingly portrayed and the complex nature of the story allows the multifaceted characters to evolve at their own pace. The stories they tell, their hidden secrets and mammoth lies, all coalesce to reveal an intricate novel in which treachery and heartless injustice walk hand in hand with the complexity of medieval life. There is never any part of the narrative that doesn't transport you back to a time of ancient superstition, when danger is glimpsed on every street corner, and where dark and dangerous forces linger in the grey and gloomy alleyways of our medieval towns and cities.
Walking the medieval streets of Lincoln in the company of Karen Maitland is like stepping from a superior time travel machine, and even though you know that the world outside your door belongs to the 21st century, your mind is easily convinced that medieval England actually co-exists in the here and now. And lingering like a shadow in the darkness, you hear the muffled voice of a stranger calling for help, the mist swirls over the river and in your imagination the year 1380 has just begun.