Saturday, February 12, 2022

A Lullaby for Witches by Hester Fox


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Hester Fox returns with a novel that combines history, museum work, magic, and tragedy. It's an interesting combination that all comes together and left me trying to decide if I sympathized with charming and mysterious Margaret Harlowe. 

There are two stories, with chapters either labeled Margaret or Augusta, so it is not difficult to switch between the two characters or time periods. Margaret is the only daughter of the wealthy Harlowe family in Tynemouth, Massachusetts in 1876. She's beautiful and restless. She also possesses magical abilities and on the side helps women in town who seek her assistance late at night in the woods. She's got her eye on the handsome Jack Pryce, a shopkeeper's son who can't take his eyes off Margaret. Is it love or lust between the two? 

Present day in Tynemouth, Augusta gets her dream job as curator for the Harlowe House Museum. She's got an eating disorder, is in a failed relationship, and feels strangely at home in Harlowe House. Augusta keeps hearing footsteps; books are left open on her desk showing important clues in her research, and she's quickly become obsessed with finding out more about Margaret. There's very little information about Margaret; it's as though she was swept under the family rug and quickly forgotten. 

Well. Margaret is still around, and she's got a plan. She wants to live, and Augusta is her key. 

This was a pretty good story; it kept my interest and I was fascinated by the story of Margaret and her tragic ending. She's at once a sympathetic character and one that is pretty selfish. She certainly has reason to be bitter. Augusta is a bit of a mess--she struggles to break free from a relationship that doesn't work but is comfortable; she is smart but troubled and just what Margaret needs to make her plan come to fruition. 

There are other characters who add to both storylines and are instrumental in determining the fate of both women. I loved the setting, the inside peek into museum curation (especially a small museum), and the magic and mystery of the woods, water, and beaches of Massachusetts. A theme running throughout this novel are the choices women make, both good and bad, and the lack of power they have within society and their own homes. 

Rating: 4/6 for an entertaining read that combines two of my favorite subjects: history and magic. It would make an interesting discussion for a book group. One of my favorite Hester Fox novels. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio. 

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