The Witch Of Blackbird Pond – Elizabeth George Speare
Orphaned Kit Tyler knows, as she gazes for the first time at the cold, bleak shores of Connecticut Colony, that her new home will never be like the shimmering Caribbean island she left behind. In her relatives' stern Puritan community, she feels like a tropical bird that has flown to the wrong part of the world, a bird that is now caged and lonely. The only place where Kit feels completely free is in the meadows, where she enjoys the company of the old Quaker woman known as the Witch of Blackbird Pond, and on occasion, her young sailor friend Nat. But when Kit's friendship with the "witch" is discovered, Kit is faced with suspicion, fear, and anger. She herself is accused of witchcraft!
Review: I guess I’m a black sheep when it comes to this book. It’s a classic, first published in the 1950s. I grew up hearing my teachers talk about how much they love it. I studied a few chapters of it when I was in college. Finally, I decided to read the entire thing and see what the fuss is about.
Unfortunately, I don’t understand the love. I was bored, honestly.
In the 1600s, much of the world is still controlled by England. Sixteen-year-old Kit moves from Barbados to Connecticut Colony after the death of her grandfather. To say that Kit doesn’t fit in at the Puritan colony is an understatement. Kit’s grandfather was a wealthy plantation owner. Kit grew up running wild on the island. Her family owned slaves, didn’t go to church, were loyal to the King of England, and had the finest clothes. When she moves in with her aunt and uncle, she’s expected to be a demure farm girl, but her willful temperament gets her in trouble with the town. After she befriends a mysterious Quaker woman, the townspeople begin to suspect that Kit is a witch.
As a main character, Kit is entertaining enough. All of the characters are imperfect. Kit’s a spoiled brat, but she doesn’t have the same prejudices as the Puritans, so she’s capable of making friends with social outcasts. Kit’s uncle is a hard-ass, but he stands up for her when she needs it. All of the characters have a realistic mixture of strengths and weaknesses. The characters grow over the course of the novel. Kit learns how to adapt to difficult situations. Some of the other characters learn empathy and how to stand up for what they believe.
“A man's first loyalty is to the soil he stands on.” – The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The plot is where I struggled. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations? I knew there was a witch trial in the book, so that’s what I expected to read about. Instead, I spent a lot of time waiting for something to happen. All the witch stuff occurs at the very end. The rest of the story is mostly about a love triangle (love square? Hexagon?). Kit and her two cousins meet three boys. There’s some polite Puritan drama about who wants who. The drama is probably interesting if you like romance, but I just wanted to get to the witch trial.
It didn’t help that the writing is mediocre. The writing gets the job done, but I never felt compelled to reread passages. I did like the setting. When Kit gets to Connecticut, she’s disappointed by the tiny town. The colonists dedicate their lives to work and church. It’s very different from what Kit (and modern readers) are used to. The Meadow is the only place where Kit feels she can be herself.
“From that first moment, in a way she could never explain, the Meadows claimed her and made her their own.” – The Witch of Blackbird Pond
This isn’t a bad book. It just wasn’t for me. I always have a hard time with books that focus on romance. They just don’t hold my attention. If I was a romance reader, I might have liked The Witch of Blackbird Pond a lot more.