Book Review: Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times

Witch Hunts cover

When I purchased this book I was looking forward to read it, as the subject matter was one I had an interest in, and I haven't read a graphic novel in a long while. It was pleasurable to find that Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, exceeded both my cravings.

It isn't easy to produce a non-fiction graphic novel – how do you encapsulate complex concepts or events in graphical form, in just a few pages, if that? While a picture may represent a thousand words, will you create the right picture, or doom the reader to the wrong thousand words? How can a bundle of pages of graphics with brief phrases, truly represent the overall theme?. Well, Rocky Wood and Lisa Morton's research and words, combined with Greg Chapman's excellent craftsmanship, certainly does tick those boxes. The reading experience is emmersive, emotional, educational.

In terms of the graphics, I particularly liked the tastefulness of the product. Sexuality, particularly the predatory side, is a part of the Witch Hunt experience, alongside brutality and sadism (all, mind you, perpetrated by those persecuting alleged witches), and yet Greg Chapman is careful in terms of how much graphic violence is portrayed – without losing the sense of what was happening. Kudos to him.

The narration, stemming from the research, is clear and concise, and equally importantly, is consistent from start to finish in terms of style. A dimension that I appreciated was the clarity of the moral message coming from the writers – this was a despicable period and it was more than just a matter of superstitious fear, it was also entwined with greed, avarice and misogyny. It was important to call a spade a spade.

As you can tell by my spiel, I really enjoyed the work, and because it is so crammed with interesting history, it is a book I can refer back to, and reread with pleasure.

A well deserved 5 stars, and worthy of winning awards.

Book Review: Lincoln, by David Herbert Donald

It is a little difficult for me to write a review of a book that covers the US Civil War period, and notable people of that geography and era – it has fascinated me for decades, and I suspect what some people consider dry, I consider absorbing. Nevertheless, I believe I can be reasonably detached with this work.

Donald is an accomplished writer – two Pulitzer Awards, and the research and style/flow of writing of Lincoln is perfect. Seriously. More importantly, he covers the life of Lincoln with a rigor for truth and evenly weighted probability masterfully, and this is the reason why I enjoyed the book so much. As a non-American, but nevertheless mid-Eighteenth Century US student, I have developed a view of who Lincoln was. I saw his as a visionary and as an eloquent statesman, and also as a self-made man. The burden of his responsibilities during the Civil War were always permeating the total picture of the man, and there seemed to be an endless collection of anecdotes about Lincoln’s axe-swinging, frontier-living, small-office and saddle legal days. And much more. What Donald did was take the filters away, but at the same time analyze the self-same filters when appropriate. I discovered the real man, and with the meticulous research, feel confident that I really know the truth.

As a non-US citizen I feel that I understand the United States better, by understanding Lincoln, and his times – a period in history that has had, and continues to have, a profound influence on that great nation. Donald’s book is one of those definitive sources to ensure that the understanding is complete.

I rate this 5 stars out of 5.