The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie’s grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, she can’t refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest—to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.
I finished this a couple of days ago and have been thinking about it ever since. I know I say I've loved a lot of books, but this one pretty much made me want to curl up inside of it and live there. I adored it. I'll admit, the opening chapter made me almost throw up and put the book down--her description of oral/qualifying exams was just a little too real. It made me remember all the horrible fun of my own exams, and I honestly didn't think I was going to be able to keep reading about something that's making me so crazy in real life. But I kept at it, and I am so glad I did. I had no idea there would be a magical element to this story, and it was just the icing on the cake. (Witches, um, yes please!) The characters were vivid and the setting came alive. It became fun to read about someone else in grad school, and funny to see that I'm not the only one struggling through this hell they call a PhD. But, that's not the only thing that drew me in--the plot moved slowly but kept me interested, and the writing was rich and full. It made me think about adding so many fun details to my own work. Plus, it's nice to read something historical, knowing it's accurate. Nothing peeves me more than thinking something might be wrong in a historical novel!
Anyhow, favorite line: "Academia, in many respects, forms the last bastion of medieval apprenticeship....The master takes the student in, educates her in his craft, shares with her the esoteric secrets of his field. The apprentice is a kind of initiate, admitted by gradual degrees into ever higher fields of mysticism." LOL--loved this!!
Seriously, go read this book!