Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review: The Priest, the Witch, and the Poltergeist

In her book, The Priest, the Witch, and the Poltergeist, Barbara Wade Rose writes of a true incident that takes place in the small town of Cideville, France during the 1850's and weaves it into a narrative. A local witch, named Thorel Felix, puts a hex on two young students who reside with a priest named Father Jean Lariat. This hex is an act of retaliation against the priest who recently had a hand in imprisoning the leader of Felix's coven. After this, a poltergeist takes hold of the Lariat household. There were many failed attempts and experiments to rid his small country home of the poltergeist, including an exorcism.  

The beginning of almost every chapter begins with a diary entry of Robert de Saint Martin, a seigneur and good friend to Lariat who attempts to help him expel the poltergeist. These entries had the feel of the diary narrative from Bram Stoker's Dracula. Diary entries in horror novels can make the story more chilling because the reader is going through the journey with the character, and neither knows what is going to occur next.  

Then the novel takes a surprising turn, and becomes almost like a legal drama with some courtroom action. Felix sues Father Lariat for assault and slander. Unlike any of the witch trials recorded in history, this case is one of the few, if not the only one, where the witch was the plaintiff rather than the defendant, and he certainly has the right to sue.  

One of the aspects I most enjoyed of the novel was watching the character development unfold. Upon first meeting Felix, he is truly a villain, while the priest and the two boys are his God-fearing victims. Yet as the novel progresses, many of Lariat's character flaws and ill intentions are revealed, and I lost much of the sympathy for him I initially felt. As for Felix, I did not see him as such a wicked character as the story moves forward; however, he didn't become a glorified entity either. I felt some sympathy for Felix when Lariat physically attacked him and I believed that he had the right to sue. Still, he remained a self proclaimed witch who did in fact put a hex on two young boys, so he did not become an innocent figure by the end of the novel. The characters are not black or white, good or bad, nor devil or saint. In fact, ultimately, you see how the priest and his students were more the victims of themselves than any hex a witch could have conjured. 

The Verdict

Library Bag: Although I do not think it will be the next great contemporary classic, I do think it was an entertaining story featuring an obscure event in history.

*Mrs. Hoffman was provided with a free copy of the book from NetGalley.*

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