Thursday, February 24, 2011

Father of Lies by Ann Turner

by Ann Turner

Truth or Lies?
Lidda knew, with a clarity that was like a candle in a dark room, that all had changed; something was loosed in the village—Devil or not—and they would pay for it, every last man, woman, and child.

Fourteen-year-old Lidda has always known she was different. She longs to escape Salem Village and its stifling rules—to be free to dance, to sing, to live as she chooses. But when a plague of accusations descends on the village and witch fever erupts, L idda begins to realize that she feels and sees things that others can't, or won't. But how will she expose the truth without being hung as a witch herself?
There were many books ahead of this one in the queu, but we were intrigued enough by the author's note to start it right away:

"The opinions about Native Americans expressed in this novel only reflect the historical record and not this author's beliefs. They are important to understanding this period.In Chapters Nineteen and Twenty-Seven, some of the responses in the witch trials are taken directly from the historical transcripts of the trials."
Because of our patronage and some personal relationships, we have become more sensitive in recentyears to the way Native Americans are portrayed in children's literature. Much has been made lately of the portrayal of African Americans in books like Huckleberry Finn, with little said about similar treatment of characters like Injun Joe. It can be a difficult balance when writing historical fiction - you want the readers to come away with a balanced view of whatever culture you are portraying, but at the same time it would be incredibly unrealistic for all the characters in, say, a book set around the building of the railroads to be polite and respectful to the Chinese workers. In other words, the reader needs to see what many of your characters don't.

Truthfully, there is very little mention of Native Americans at all in the book, and it comes in the form of comments you would expect from the townspeople of that time - (from an 'afflicted' girl) "I vow the Devil was tall, dark, and wicked looking, like our enemies the Indians, with an evil heart inside." At the start of the book, we meet Tituba, the slave born in Barbados. She appears to cultivate an air of mystery and magic, seeming to know what Lidda is thinking, but as readers we can see that it could just as easily be keen observation skills and knowledge of human nature. Lidda envies her free spirit and refers to her in her thoughts as a friend, while most people, her parents included, regard her with suspicion and distaste.

We don't get to know many of the characters, except through Lidda's interactions with them. While this keeps them rather two-dimensional, it is a matter of character development and not stereotyping. Lidda is the only character we get to know, but since the book is mostly about her internal struggles (which the author's note implies may have been the result of bipolar disorder), that is not a huge issue. Readers may be confused as to whether they are supposed to root for or against the mysterious Lucien, all the way to the end of the book. Since many readers will already be quite familiar with the Salem witch trials and how they played out, this struggle and mystery offer a fresh perspective. Give this one to any teenage (or preteen) girls interested in the subject, or in historical fiction.

We give it a 4 out of 5.


  1. Sounds like an interesting perspective! Would have liked more about the Native Americans, though.

  2. Good morning!

    I've blogged about your review and the book...

    Thanks for reviewing it and posting the review. I'm waiting for my copy...