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Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch: A…
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Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch: A Novel (utgåvan 2021)

av Rivka Galchen (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
14910145,648 (3.8)14
Medlem:cindycates
Titel:Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch: A Novel
Författare:Rivka Galchen (Författare)
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2021), 290 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
Betyg:
Taggar:Ingen/inga

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Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch av Rivka Galchen

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» Se även 14 omnämnanden

Visa 1-5 av 10 (nästa | visa alla)
Katherina Kepler was a eccentric, stubborn old widow when the complaints started; mysterious illnesses, strange happenings, and death seem to stalk her neighbors, and somehow everything seemed connected to her. Although illiterate, Katherina was not without resources to fight back against the ugly rumors that started small but grew to surround her. Her three adult children, including famed astronomer Johannes Kepler, do their best to protect her, as does her next door neighbor and legal guardian Simon (who couldn’t be more obviously a fictional character). Even so, suspense builds. Will Katherina be turned over to the authorities for torture and ultimately death? And what will become of her beloved cow?

Author Rivka Galchen evokes life in a 17th century German village with aplomb, even if the narrative is slow in places. Recommended. ( )
  akblanchard | Sep 18, 2021 |
Historical fiction set in 17th Century Germany, Hans Kepler's mother on trial for witchcraft.

Was fine, was happy to finish & move on. Four stars for horrifying and timely reminder of the perils of trial by accusation coupled with widespread ignorance. ( )
  kcshankd | Sep 18, 2021 |
Historical novels which deal with real people can be tricky - stray too far away and what was the point in starting with the actual person; stay too close and it feels like you wanted to tell the story but did not want to do the complete research to make it a history book. In this novel Rivka Galchen found the happy middle ground between the two - the place where these kinds of novels work the best.

In 1615, Katharina Kepler was accused of being a witch. In case the name rings a bell but does not connect - she is the mother of Johannes Kepler, one of the key mathematicians, astronomers and astrologers (and a few more things - the sciences and pseudo-sciences are still the same thing at that point - he considered himself a mathematician) of the 17th century that allowed later scientists to understand astronomy and physics. Galchen takes this story and builds a novel around it, keeping it as close to the real history but with enough fictional elements and changes to make it work as a novel. You do not need to know the real story - if you do, you know how the story must end - neither you need to know anything about the 17th century really.

Katharina is a widow, living alone in Leonberg (with her cow). She cannot write or read so when she decides to tell us her story, it is a neighbor, Simon, who records it for her 4 years into the trial. At the time when that happens, she is in her 70s so her account is anything but linear - she talks about the trial and about her own past; the record is started in 1619 so there is an element of unreliable narrator in there. This journal/account forms the base of the book - it gets interspersed with Simon's notes, letters (from different people) and the transcripts of the testimony of the people who had been interviewed for her trial.

One of the traps in writing this kind of novels is to make the main character too good - the author trying too hard to win the reader's sympathy. Katharina is anything but - for most of the book, she is the know-it-all, better than everyone matriarch who does not believe that bad things can happen to her - not this kind of things anyway. As more than one character says in the novel - she made her own trouble in a way. And despite that, you cannot stop being on her side - the whole trial is as ridiculous as most of the other witch trials on both sides of the Atlantic.

Katharina may be the local grandmother who never knows when to keep her peace (you probably had one of those or knew one just like that once upon a time) but when the accusers start elaborating, the biggest issue seems to be that she simply does not behave the way a widow should behave. Which in the early days of the 17th century is a reason enough for a woman to be suspect and once someone in the town accuses her (for reason that were never made clear besides just looking to do harm), everything bad seems to be now caused by her - animals getting sick or dying, people getting sick or dying -- suddenly everyone remembers Katharina having been there. If you ever lived in a small place, a place where everyone knows everyone, that rings true and even more so in the superstitious 17th century.

The novel is full of history - not the big history you tend to get in school but the daily things - how people lived, how they survived what was thrown at them (although the Big history does intervenes - a war is a war no matter how small and insignificant you are), how the world worked. Katharina loses everything she had long before her trial actually ends - she needs to pay for her prison guards and all other legal expenses even if she has no saying in where and how she in imprisoned.

At the end, it does not matter how the trial ends. Galchen handles that masterfully - the story ends with the last speech of the accusers and then jumps a dozen or so years, with Simon trying to sell Katharina's story, long after she is dead. The point of the novel is the trial and the devastation it caused in everyone's lives. It is not just the story of one woman and one trial; it is the story of a time and place, using the single story as a vehicle. We learn how this specific story ends but it is an afterthought.

With all this being said, this should have been one of my favorite novels this year. But something is off - something just did not connect completely. The middle drags and after a powerful start the novel never reaches the same level - the end is definitely better than the middle but nowhere close to the start. It is not a bad or really a disappointing novel but it is possible that the choice to tell the story completely in the voices of the participants was a bit miscalculated - especially because that did not allow a lot of the secondary characters to shine - for example Maruschl, who Katharina is very fond of, sounds less defined than the cow Chamomile. But then Katharina cared about the cow a lot more at the end anyway (or so it felt). So maybe that was part of the point. But it just did not work completely for me. And yet, it is a novel worth checking. ( )
  AnnieMod | Aug 30, 2021 |
Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch intrigued me because this was based on the true story of the mother of Johannes Kepler, and the trials and tribulations faced by the family when she was accused of witchcraft during the seventeenth century. While I know quite a bit about Kepler's contributions to the Scientific Revolution, I am always eager to read more about his mother so I was looking forward to an interesting story about intrigue and politics. Plus, I thought the title was eye-catching. But the plot dragged and the way it was written kept the reader seriously detached from the characters and by the end I was relieved the book was finished.

My favourite parts of the books were the transcripts of the interviews with the various people from the village as well as some of the letters written to dispute, or to encourage, charges. First of all, many of the transcripts were quite fascinating and allowed for an intriguing study of human nature and the goings-on of a small rural village during this time period. Many of the petty squabbles that you would think make up a village were evident, and I definitely enjoyed the thoughts behind why the villagers thought Katharina should be guilty, which ranged everywhere from the absurd to ones out of petty jealousy. To the modern reader, the sarcasm behind these transcripts was quite evident, but done quite cleverly. The letters were also interesting, and I especially liked the one listing the many reasons why Katharina was guilty. I think there was something like forty reasons listed, some of them quite absurd to our way of thinking, but very relevant to the time period when certain scientific inquiry sent people to be burnt at the stake.

The story though, while interesting, was a bit of a slog to read. Unfortunately, the writing style made it difficult to empathize with the characters, and there were times I just wanted to wring Katharina's neck as she just didn't want to listen to anyone's advice. I think the author was trying to show a woman ahead of her time period, especially with a son who was well-known, but she came across as silly and annoying at times. I did like how she still looked at her son Hans (Johannes) as a little boy even though he was a famous mathematician by this point and even an imperial advisor.

I get the book was written in this type of self-deprecating humour, but for me, it just didn't work. The book was written as a type of journal: the main characters, Katharina, was illiterate, and her neighbour, Simon, wrote the journals for her. I definitely enjoyed the thinking of the time period and could understand the humour and the irony when tackling a subject such as the witch trials simply because the reasons were absurd. However, what happened to these women was serious and the fourteen months of imprisonment that Katharina suffered was glossed over: in fact, we learn of her financial difficulties through a letter written by the people who accused her as her jailors were burning too much fuel and wasting the money from her estate so there would be nothing left when she died.

Verdict
Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch is meant to have this dark, witty humour as Katharina Kepler is accused of being a witch and the story recounts the interviews with the villagers and goes to trial. But the humour didn't quite work for me as it seemed to downplay the seriousness of what was happening, although the author did manage to show the absurdity of the situation quite well so the highlights were definitely the transcripts and the letters. However, I just didn't sympathize with any of the characters as the writing style kept you detached so it was difficult to empathize with their losses and situations. If you are interested in Johannes Kepler and his mother, I do recommend this book (there is a LOT of information in it though and is not a light read) Kepler's Witch: An Astronomer's Discovery of Cosmic Order Amid Religious War, Political Intrigue, and the Heresy Trial of his Mother. ( )
  StephanieBN | Aug 28, 2021 |
I love books like this -- set in the Middle Ages - no pretending that modern values are relevant. Katherina Kepler is a widower (or at least the husband has gone and not returned). She has three sons and one daughter. She is also known for her wisdom regarding herbs and healing plants. Set in Wurtemberg (Germany), fear and suspicion are everywhere with the plague spreading and the country still in turmoil over the teachings of Luther. Katherina is a follower of Luther (however, religion is not a major issue here). Hans, the oldest son has worked himself up to a good position as a mathematician and astrologer which makes many jealous. Katherina is also known as somewhat a busy body; however, most of that is out of concern for others. She is accused of being a witch

One woman in particular has accused her of causing pain and Katherina is called before the Duke to explain herself. Soon one after another of the townspeople come forward telling of tales of woe and blaming Katherina. Katherina, however, seems almost totally unfazed by any of the troubles. Her children all stand up for her (the youngest son has died). Katherina does confide in a quiet neighbor Simon who is the narrator in some of the chapters. Some of the chapters are told in question and answer form from the accusers.

Katherina eventually is imprisoned in terrible conditions; still her children stand up for her. Eventually she is freed, but Katherina still holds no grudge, no hatred, or fear. This is an understated book about the goodness of one woman told in a funny yet thought-provoking manner and about how fear and superstition can take over a community. Great writing. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 22, 2021 |
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