Do people still read this book? I found this copy (circa 1978) at a garage sale in the spring. It sent me straight back to the summer days I spent at age thirteen trolling the understocked library in Abbotsford, BC for romance novels whose covers might slip past my mother’s censorious eye (she thought me too young for Harlequins). Speare’s book seemed to fit the bill: the Barbie-doll heroine in the wind-swept marsh, the blurb proclaiming “suspense and romance…”.
Even back then the book was dated: Elizabeth George Speare wrote it in 1958. While a little light on the romance, the story was—is—enough of a page-turner to have kept me interested. It’s 1687. Kit Tyler has been raised on Barbados by her freewheeling grandfather, but when he dies she goes to live with her Puritan aunt and uncle in Connecticut. Kit can swim. Kit nods off at Meeting House services. Kit has the school-kids enact Bible scenes—play-acting God’s Holy Word!
If The Crucible and Anne of Green Gables got married and had a baby, and if that baby wasn’t as smart or as literary as its parents but charming and likeable anyhow, that baby would be The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Okay, maybe it’s not really a surprise when the goodwives want to see Kit burn, and okay, maybe her last-minute rescue is a tad tidy. But re-reading this novel recently sent me into such a blissful oblivion that I didn’t even mind when we all had to get off the malfunctioning subway at rush hour and spend the next 20 minutes shuffling shoulder-to-shoulder toward the exits. I didn’t even mind.