17.12.10

Coming in 2011: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Okay, I am particularly excited about A Discovery of Witches being published on 8th February 2011 by Headline. I was extremely lucky to receive a proof of this book and I thought it was brilliant, I will be posting my review in the new Year but I truly believe that A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is going to be huge! Here's the idea behind the book:
When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library  it's an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. A witch of impeccable lineage, Diana has exposed herself to a world she has kept at bay for years. Sensing the significance of Diana's discovery, witches, vampires and daemons gather in Oxford, among them vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and in an shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing...
See, sounds good doesn't it! It gets better, today, you can read the first chapter which has been split exclusively between myself and three very lovely bloggers. You simply  have to follow the trail:

For the first part, simply visit the lovely Carolyn at Book Chick City

To find out what happens next just visit Amanda at the fabulous Floor to Ceiling Books

Part three is right here on Dot Scribbles

Finally, for part four head over to Liz at the brilliant My Favourite Books

So here, to give you a taste of the book is the second excerpt from Chapter 1:


I shook myself and focused again on the dilemma that faced me. The manuscript sat on the library table in a pool of lamplight. Its magic pulled on something dark and knotted inside me. My fingers returned to the smooth leather. This time the prickling sensation felt familiar. I vaguely remembered experiencing something like it once before, looking through some papers on the desk in my father’s study.
    Turning resolutely away from the leather-bound volume, I occupied myself with something more rational: searching for the list of alchemical texts I’d generated before leaving New Haven. It was on my desk, hidden among the loose papers, book call slips, receipts, pencils, pens, and library maps, neatly arranged by collection and then by the number assigned to each text by a library clerk when it had entered into the Bodleian. Since arriving a few weeks ago, I had been working through the list methodically. The copied-out catalog description for Ashmole 782 read, ‘Anthropologia, or a treatis containing a short description of Man in two parts: the first Anatomical, the second Psychological.’ As with most of the works I studied, there was no telling what the contents were from the title.
    My fingers might be able to tell me about the book without even cracking open the covers. Aunt Sarah always used her fingers to figure out what was in the mail before she opened it, in case the envelope contained a bill she didn’t want to pay. That way she could plead ignorance when it turned out she owed the electric company money.
    The gilt numbers on the spine winked.
    I sat down and considered the options.
    Ignore the magic, open the manuscript, and try to read it like a human scholar?
    Push the bewitched volume aside and walk away?
    Sarah would chortle with delight if she knew my predicament. She had always maintained that my efforts to keep magic at arm’s length were futile. But I’d been doing so ever since my parents’ funeral. There the witches among the guests had scrutinized me for signs that the Bishop and Proctor blood was in my veins, all the while patting me encouragingly and predicting it was only a matter of time before I took my mother’s place in the local coven. Some had whispered their doubts about the wisdom of my parents’ decision to marry.
    ‘Too much power,’ they muttered when they thought I wasn’t listening. ‘They were bound to attract attention – even without studying ancient ceremonial religion.’
    This was enough to make me blame my parents’ death on the supernatural power they wielded and to search for a different way of life. Turning my back on anything to do with magic, I buried myself in the stuff of human adolescence – horses and boys and romantic novels – and tried to disappear among the town’s ordinary residents. At puberty I had problems with depression and anxiety. It was all very normal, the kindly human doctor assured my aunt.
    Sarah didn’t tell him about the voices, about my habit of picking up the phone a good minute before it rang, or that she had to enchant the doors and windows when there was a full moon to keep me from wandering into the woods in my sleep. Nor did she mention that when I was angry the chairs in the house rearranged themselves into a precarious pyramid before crashing to the floor once my mood lifted.
    When I turned thirteen, my aunt decided it was time for me to channel some of my power into learning the basics of witchcraft. Lighting candles with a few whispered words or hiding pimples with a time-tested potion – these were a teenage witch’s habitual first steps. But I was unable to master even the simplest spell, burned every potion my aunt taught me, and stubbornly refused to submit to her tests to see if I’d inherited my mother’s uncannily accurate second sight.
    The voices, the fires, and other unexpected eruptions lessened as my hormones quieted, but my unwillingness to learn the family business remained. It made my aunt anxious to have an untrained witch in the house, and it was with some relief that Sarah sent me off to a college in Maine. Except for the magic, it was a typical coming-of-age story.
    What got me away from Madison was my intellect. It had always been precocious, leading me to talk and read before other children my age. Aided by a prodigious, photographic memory – which made it easy for me to recall the layouts of textbooks and spit out the required information on tests – my schoolwork was soon established as a place where my family’s magical legacy was irrelevant. I’d skipped my final years of high school and started college at sixteen.
    There I’d first tried to carve out a place for myself in the theater department, my imagination drawn to the spectacle and the costumes – and my mind fascinated by how completely a playwright’s words could conjure up other places and times. My first few performances were heralded by my professors as extraordinary examples of the way good acting could transform an ordinary college student into someone else. The first indication that these metamorphoses might not have been the result of theatrical talent came while I was playing Ophelia in Hamlet. As soon as I was cast in the role, my hair started growing at an unnatural rate, tumbling down from shoulders to waist. I sat for hours beside the college’s lake, irresistibly drawn to its shining surface, with my new hair streaming all around me. The boy playing Hamlet became caught up in the illusion, and we had a passionate though dangerously volatile affair. Slowly I was dissolving into
Ophelia’s madness, taking the rest of the cast with me.
    The result might have been a riveting performance, but each new role brought fresh challenges. In my sophomore year, the situation became impossible when I was cast as Annabella in John Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore’. Like the character, I attracted a string of devoted suitors – not all of them human – who followed me around campus. When they refused to leave me alone after the final curtain fell, it was clear that whatever had been unleashed couldn’t be controlled. I wasn’t sure how magic had crept into my acting, and I didn’t want to find out. I cut my hair short. I stopped wearing flowing skirts and layered tops in favor of the black turtlenecks, khaki trousers, and loafers that the solid, ambitious prelaw students were wearing. My excess energy went into athletics.
    After leaving the theater department, I attempted several more majors, looking for a field so rational that it would never yield a square inch to magic. I lacked the precision and patience for mathematics, and my efforts at biology were a disaster of failed quizzes and unfinished laboratory experiments.
    At the end of my sophomore year, the registrar demanded I choose a major or face a fifth year in college. A summer study program in England offered me the opportunity to get even farther from all things Bishop. I fell in love with Oxford, the quiet glow of its morning streets. My history courses covered the exploits of kings and queens, and the only voices in my head were those that whispered from books penned in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This was entirely attributable to great literature. Best of all, no one in this university town knew me, and if there were witches in the city that summer, they stayed well away. I returned home, declared a major in history, took all the required courses in record time, and graduated with honors before I turned twenty.
    When I decided to pursue my doctorate, Oxford was my first choice among the possible programs. My specialty was the history of science, and my research focused on the period when science supplanted magic – the age when astrology and witch-hunts yielded to Newton and universal laws. The search for a rational order in nature, rather than a supernatural one, mirrored my own efforts to stay away from what was hidden. The lines I’d already drawn between what went on in my mind and what I carried in my blood grew more distinct.
    My Aunt Sarah had snorted when she heard of my decision to specialize in seventeenth-century chemistry. Her bright red hair was an outward sign of her quick temper and sharp tongue. She was a plain-speaking, no-nonsense witch who commanded a room as soon as she entered it. A pillar of the Madison community, Sarah was often called in to manage things when there was a crisis, large or small, in town. We were on much better terms now that I wasn’t subjected to a daily dose of her keen observations on human frailty and inconsistency.
    Though we were separated by hundreds of miles, Sarah thought my latest attempts to avoid magic were laughable – and told me so. ‘We used to call that alchemy,’ she said. ‘There’s a lot of magic in it.’
    ‘No, there’s not,’ I protested hotly. The whole point of my work was to show how scientific this pursuit really was. ‘Alchemy tells us about the growth of experimentation, not the search for a magical elixir that turns lead into gold and makes people immortal.’
    ‘If you say so,’ Sarah said doubtfully. ‘But it’s a pretty strange subject to choose if you’re trying to pass as human.’
    After earning my degree, I fought fiercely for a spot on the faculty at Yale, the only place that was more English than England. Colleagues warned that I had little chance of being granted tenure. I churned out two books, won a handful of prizes, and collected some research grants. Then I received tenure and proved everyone wrong.
    More important, my life was now my own. No one in my department, not even the historians of early America, connected my last name with that of the first Salem woman executed for witchcraft in 1692. To preserve my hard-won autonomy, I continued to keep any hint of magic or witchcraft out of my life. Of course there were exceptions, like the time I’d drawn on one of Sarah’s spells when the washing machine wouldn’t stop filling with water and threatened to flood my small apartment on Wooster Square. Nobody’s perfect.
    Now, taking note of this current lapse, I held my breath, grasped the manuscript with both hands, and placed it in one of the wedge-shaped cradles the library provided to protect its rare books. I had made my decision: to behave as a serious scholar and treat Ashmole 782 like an ordinary manuscript. I’d ignore my burning fingertips, the book’s strange smell, and simply describe its contents. Then I’d decide – with professional detachment – whether it was promising enough for a longer look. My fingers trembled when I loosened the small brass clasps nevertheless. 

Good isn't it! I couldn't put the book down once I had started it, it's a long one too, 592 pages to be exact but it is such a good read. Headline are really excited about this book and would like it to reach as many readers as possible so they are offering  a fabulous competition, 1 lucky person (UK only and must be 18 or over) can meet Deborah Harkness herself, have a chat and a cup of tea. Deborah will then give you a signed copy of the book plus a bottle of wine that she highly recommends (and she's an expert!), this can take place in either London or Oxford on 7th, 8th or 9th of March 2011, Headline have very generously offered to cover peoples travelling expenses on the day too. All you have to do is leave a comment saying you would like to meet the author and I shall pick one name and pass it on to Headline who will have the names from the other blog entrants and they shall pick one winner! If you know you couldn't make that day then don't worry, you can still win one of three signed copies of A Discovery of Witches, so when leaving a comment, just say which part you would like to enter, meeting the author on the day or winning a signed copy, please don't enter for both though. All entries need to be in the comments section by midnight on 31st December 2010 and you will then be notified in the new year! 

If you would like to find out a bit more about A Discovery of Witches then visit the book's website here

Deborah Harkness has her own website which you can  visit by clicking here, she is also on Twitter @DebHarkness

So, there you go, told you it was exciting! Good luck if you enter the competition, I shall be posting my review and a question and answer session with the author in the new year so come back and have a look at that too. 

12 comments:

verity said...

That is a fun idea! I've not come across this author, but as I am in Oxford, I think I should enter.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Thanks for this wonderful post! I enjoyed reading the excerpt.

natalie23 said...

I would love to win a copy of this book. Thanks for the excerpt.

Cherry said...

Can't join the author meet & greet 'coz I work Mon-Fri... but I would love to join the book giveaway! :) Thank you for the chance to win A Discovery of Witches!!

Cherry Mischievous
cherrymischif-warrior [at] yahoo [dot] com

SusanKMann said...

I have the book, it's awesome. So I'd love more than anything to meet her please enter me. @susankmann

Carmen said...

Oh I would SO love to win a copy of this book :) Thanks for the chance to enter.

whoopidoo[at]btinternet[dot]com

Scarlet said...

Oooh, this book is top of my wishlist for 2011! Would love to win a copy :)

Scarlet said...

Sorry, forgot to add my email address -

anoceanofwords@gmail.com

Kulsuma said...

What a great book! I would love to enter to win a signed copy. Thanks.

k_anon[at]hotmail[dot]co[dot]uk

Kim and Mona said...

Great idea to do a "treasure hunt" with this chapter - I enjoyed it too! Shame the competition isn't open internationally, but, we are used to that! Will definitely put this book on my wish list inspite of that!!
Great review Dot, thank you!

Sverige said...

She will mesmerize her readers with her dialogue so much so that the almost 600 pages will fly by in the blink of a witches eye. She takes us to magical and real places with effortless and picturesque descriptive narrative as we live vicariously the lives of her characters through our eyes by her words. She also gives us characters none of which we've ever experienced before by making them unbelievable and real at the same time and by giving them the substance they need to make them unforgettable to her readers

navaneedh said...

Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u





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