The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

The Witch of Blackbird Pond  cover

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare was first published in 1958 and it’s a Newbery Medal winner. I must admit that I had never even heard of this author until I was very kindly sent a copy of the book by Jennifer of Holds on Happiness.

It’s 1687 and Katherine (Kit) Tyler is on board the Dolphin, sailing from the Caribbean island of Antigua to New England. Kit had had a very luxurious life, her parents were both dead and it was her grandfather who had brought her up, he was a titled plantation owner, but when he died there were lots of debts and Kit had to sail to her only known relative, her mother’s sister – Aunt Rachel. Aunt Rachel lived in Wethersfield, a small town in the Connecticut Colony. The town is a horrible culture shock to Kit who is used to the lush countryside of Antigua, the ‘roads’ in Wethersfield are just dirt tracks and the houses are all wooden shacks.

Her Aunt Rachel and Uncle Matthew Wood get a bigger shock though when Kit arrives at their cabin, she hadn’t told them she would be arriving and it’s obvious that she’s not really welcome. Life for them is already difficult with just two daughters, one of them crippled, and no boys to help Matthew with the farm work. Kit had never had to do any house or field work before, she had had a slave to help her in Antigua, but had had to sell her slave to pay for her passage on the Dolphin.

Life in the Wood household is hard and joyless, as it is in the whole town, it’s a Puritan colony and they are suspicious of people who aren’t like them, and Kit with her beautiful silk dresses is suspect, she can read and she can even swim, some think she might be a witch. The locals dislike anyone different from them and particularly hate the elderly Quaker woman who lives in a shack near the river.

This was a really entertaining read. It was good to be in the company of Kit who is a strong character, determined to do the right thing despite the evil tongues of some of the locals. After some angst there is a very happy ending for all, just what I was needing at the moment.

I imagine that as this book was at one point required reading in US schools some of you will be familiar with this one. Thanks again Jenny for sending me this one.