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Rachel-K
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Part I, Chapters 1-6

Please remember that these observations and questions are one way to jump in to the discussion! Feel free to post your own questions on this first section of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.

 

What are your first impressions of of each of the characters, in the 1690s and in the 1990s? Who are you most drawn to or turned off by in these opening scenes? Why?

How does the idea of looking for the "truth" differ between these two worlds, the early courtroom and the modern academic examination? Does anything strike you as similar between those two scenes?

 

How do Connie and Liz interact as friends? How do these two women fit in at Harvard?

 

What is the relationship like between Arlo and Connie?

 

What are these "vivid daydreams" that Connie is having?

 

Sam gives Connie a very different take on the idea of "witchcraft" during the late 1600s. How does he change her thinking about this subject?

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biljounc63
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Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6

I did like the opening scenes it shows the contrast of the two eras we are visiting in this story. I especially liked the buildup as Connie and Liz were traveling to Marblehead to find Granna's house. The scene was built piece by piece as a place that time forgot. The gate to the house that has not been touched by modern times was hidden behind the brambles.

I did have an issue of the garden around the house though. I can sort of believe that the "herbs/medicinal plants" that granna grew in the garden may have survived the years but I simply could not buy the fact that there were vegetables ,just waiting to be harvested, for dinner. It's Just not possible after a couple of decades of abandonment in MA. It does add to the mysterious atmosphere I guess. 

 

I like the introduction of Sam and the process of us getting some of the back story being told to him by Connnie.

 

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
~ Joseph Addison ~

"Reading lets you visit the world of another"
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biljounc63
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Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6

Did anybody else pick up on the connection of this story and the last First Look book Sag Harbor? On page 70 Connie bought a small ice cream in a waffle cone. I could not help and wonder if she was at Jonnie Waffle:smileywink:
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
~ Joseph Addison ~

"Reading lets you visit the world of another"
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januttall
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Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6

I find it quite interesting that there is so much emphasis on finding a primary source for Connie's graduate studies in modern times, while back in the 1690's they are struggling to determine which of the primary sources is truly accurate.

 

I haven't quite figured out Connie's daydreams.  I've wondered whether she has a sort of sixth sense about her - I guess time will tell!

 

I really like Connie and was drawn to her from the very start.  Arlo doesn't seem to be man's best friend (or should I say Connie's best friend), but he does give her character a down-to-earth sort of feel.  Maybe that's just because I'm such a dog lover, myself. 

 

julie

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kren250
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Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6

My first impression of Connie is that she is very dedicated, a hard worker, and very practical. Her mother is the exact opposite: more of a free spirit. I'm most drawn to the characters in the scenes from the past, probably because I love historical fiction! Also, Connie is not a character I relate to, nor do I particularly like her. She's probably my least favorite character so far. Why? Because I find her a bit snobbish, with plenty of stereotypical opinions about everything from New Englanders to people who don't go to Ivy League schools. I found her to be very close minded.

 

Looking for the truth is very different in the two times. Back then, they didn't know what we do now about the world, and used religion or witchcraft often for natural phenomena (sp--sorry, I'm a terrible speller!). It's interesting to wonder what people will think about our beliefs hundreds of years in the future!

 

Connie and Liz get along very well as friends. They are very different from one another, but it seems to work out. They seemed to fit in okay at Harvard, just had more of a hurdle there being women!

 

Arlo and Connie get along great. I must admit I thought this aspect of the novel very predictable.

 

I think the vivid daydreams are actually visions into the past. For being a Harvard graduate, it seems like Connie is very slow on the uptake as far as this goes.

 

Sam opens Connie's views a bit about witchcraft, and how people viewed it differently back then. 

 

 

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Amanda-Louise
Posts: 156
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Chpt 1-6, my thoughts

Okay - when I received the book, I was amazed at the cover - so beautiful and such a nice packaging.  It's also a really heavy book with a very stiff binding.  I found that perhaps the earlier FL books were made a bit less costly, whereas this one seemed to mimic holding a hardback book.  Loved that.  However, as I got to reading, I ended up finding it a bit too stiff and had to bend the binding, which is one of my big pet peeves.  I'll do anything to keep a book spine stiff.

 

So, I really love the feel of the book.  The pages are gorgousely thick with a linen-y feel.  Just the feel of this book alone compells me to read it.  Plus the earth tones of the cover make would make me reach for it on the bookstore shelf.

 

Reading Matthew Pearl's letter regarding the book also made me eager to get started.  I love all things witches/witchcraft, have since I was very young (even though I'm not one) and I felt that by reading this book I would learn more.

 

Once I got started on the text, I had a bit of trouble keeping the pronouns assigned to the proper person.  This seemed to happen only in the prologue and it could have been my attention span. 

 

Getting to Chapter One, I find the descriptions very vivid.  Connie's observations of her enviornment while sitting at the table taking her orals made me feel as though I was sitting there.  Howe is very accomplished at putting the reading right into the character.

 

I got a very creepy feeling as Connie left the examination room, leaving Prof. Chilton sitting in the dark.

 

Chapter Two - The budding romance between Connie and Sam is interesting.  It seems a bit against Connie's character.  Here's this smart, Harvard-educated woman who goes at her research full-throttle so she'll have a reason to phone a guy?  I found that a bit odd, however perhaps it shows Connie has more than a purely academic side.

 

The shift between time periods is remarkably undesturbing.  I've not figured out how Howe is accomplishing this.  I read The 19th Wife by David Ebersoff (a great read) and the time shifts were such an interruption and almost offensive.  I felt it would have been better to read that particular novel as two separate ones.  They just didn't mesh.  In TPBODD they mesh so nicely.  I am having a spot of trouble keeping the names straight in the 17th c. story.

 

I find it an interesting device having the reader know what the protaganist is trying to find out.  We know more about this book than does Connie and it's a bit frustrating when reading Connie's research attempts.  Often mysteries unfold through the main characters eyes, so we know only as much as they do.

 

Having said that, there is still so much that we don't know - I'm still strongly feeling that something is up with Prof. Chilton.

 

I'm also beginning to find the writing a bit self-indulgent with the long descriptions which are not entirely relevant.  However, the descriptions are so well done that it doesn't matter!!

 

Okay - there are my thoughts on the first half of part 1!  Now I'll jump into the discussion.

 

Cheers,

Amanda

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aprilh
Posts: 424
Registered: ‎09-25-2008

Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6

Did anyone else get the feeling that Professor Chilton is up to something? Something about the way he kept smiling at Connie in their meeting when she showed him the paper with Deliverance Dane's name written on it struck me as odd. I'm not sure if he's just a little condescending to her or if there is something more. I think my suspicions were also heightened when Connie overheard him yelling on the phone. When she asked him about his project for the Colonial Association, he just played it off saying there was more time for that later and started smiling at her again. Interesting how at the end of the meeting the only word she could use to describe his smile to herself was "hungry".

The descriptions in this book are wonderful. They are so vivid, they make you feel as if you are really there. I'm loving this book so far. Very well written!

April
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DSaff
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Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6

I am absolutely loving the book and am finding it hard to only read the selection for the week! I am finding it interesting to move between the two worlds, and am finding similarities between them. So far, I am drawn to Connie, Professor Silva (rooting for Connie), Liz, Sam, Deliverance, and Mercy. Peter Petford is the one I am turned off by the most. He seems to be a weak man willing to blame another for his misfortune. The minister is not a favorite of mine either.

 

I am really drawn to the cross-examinations of both Connie and Deliverance. Both are fighting for their proverbial lives; both knowing this fight will make or break them. Men figure prominently in both scenes as those holding the keys to their future. We find that Connie makes it through her grilling, while the complete explanation of Deliverance's fate is still up in the air.

 

DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
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DSaff
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Connie and Arlo

Did anyone else find a correlation between Arlo and the dog that attented Martha's death? Both dogs seem to be an extension of their mistress. I loved how Arlo "found" Connie, and their relationship is neat to watch. He is her companion and confidant. Could the dog at the beginning be a kindred spirit? I am looking forward to your thoughts!

 

DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
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krb2g
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Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6

The first six chapters really drew me into the story. I'm getting ready to take my oral exams next fall (in English, not History)--and the differences and similarities between what I expect and what Connie experienced are striking. The mastery of a large amount of knowledge part is the same, but, here at least, there's not the same sense that the professors are out to get the students or fail them on any excuse. I also felt the whole "strongest doctoral qualifying exam we have seen in recent memory" was a bit much (17). Especially with the contextualization of what the orals exams mean in this chapter, I didn't need more proof that Connie was a good student (especially considering that she's been placed at Harvard, which is certainly not the only place to get a good doctoral education in history, even in the Boston area).

 

I hadn't thought about juxtaposing the courtroom scene with the orals examination until Rachel's question, but they do present very similar methods of searching for the truth--that is, truth by testimony. There's no sense, in either of them, that it's reasonable to require physical evidence in the actual place of trial--although they both depend on the reliability of the person being questioned (who needs to have either read or seen something).

 

The plot point that was hardest for me to accept was the contrived way that Connie ended up at her grandmother's house in Marblehead. They could abandon it and not pay taxes for twenty years, and it's available, untouched (no squatters or kids making drug deals or anything) for Connie to clean, but it has to be done RIGHT NOW or ELSE? And then Grace is able to talk Connie (who seems to be remarkably focused and clear-headed about her school work) into doing it with almost no difficulty?

 

I loved the space of the house itself though; the tangled gardens, the lack of electricity, the hardwood floors, the bookshelf (and I agree, they'd definitely need a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin, but, given some of the old books there, where's Pilgrim's Progress???).

 

I don't have much to say about Connie's relationships with either Arlo or Liz, but I was very fond of both these characters--especially Liz.

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Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6


rkubie wrote:

What are these "vivid daydreams" that Connie is having?

 


Connie can literally see into the past.  A blessing and a curse, I expect.  I was reminded of Harry Potter getting headaches and visions too.

 

From the reading so far, we know that Deliverance Dane had healing powers because she healed the judge's toe, her daghter Mercy has powers because she made the apple blossom grow into an apple and explode, and Connie has the power to see the past.  I can't help but wonder if Connie is related to Deliverance and Mercy.

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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krb2g
Posts: 289
Registered: ‎02-05-2008

Re: Connie and Arlo

I think it speaks to the inherent kindness/goodness of both Connie and Deliverance that they have dogs that stick close by to them--especially the way that Arlo found Connie. I think the presence of the dogs shows that the text is firmly on the side of these women: the dog's affirming presence is one way of knowing that Deliverance hasn't bewitched Martha or caused her death.

 

I love the way that Connie has the discussion with Arlo when she gets home late one night. 

 

I am tempted to believe that Deliverance's dog, "an attentive, disheveled-looking little dog, some dingy color between brown and tan" which Deliverance couldn't have carried with her to the Petford's, and Arlo, who's little, of indeterminate breed, and "an indistinct, dingy color something between mud and leaves" who "materialized from under the shrubbery" one day and has stuck with Connie ever since, are actually the same dog (6, 24).

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Fozzie
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Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6


aprilh wrote:

Did anyone else get the feeling that Professor Chilton is up to something? Something about the way he kept smiling at Connie in their meeting when she showed him the paper with Deliverance Dane's name written on it struck me as odd. I'm not sure if he's just a little condescending to her or if there is something more. I think my suspicions were also heightened when Connie overheard him yelling on the phone. When she asked him about his project for the Colonial Association, he just played it off saying there was more time for that later and started smiling at her again. Interesting how at the end of the meeting the only word she could use to describe his smile to herself was "hungry".


I don't trust Professor Chilton either!  I noticed this question from him to Connie on page 15:

 

"Have you not considered the distinct possibility that the accused were simply guilty of witchcraft?"

 

At first, I thought this was a good way to show what a jerk he was and to set up the irony that Connie will discover that there were witches in Salem (I am guessing this; I have not read past this section of reading).  However, I am wondering if he doesn't know something about Connie's history and is baiting her. 

 

Who knows...very suspicious...

 

Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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krb2g
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Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6


DSaff wrote:

Peter Petford is the one I am turned off by the most. He seems to be a weak man willing to blame another for his misfortune.


I agree that Petford is weak and unscrupulous, but I find myself pitying him more than anything.

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Fozzie
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Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6-Mandrake

[ Edited ]

Did anyone notice the picture of the plant opposite the title page, mandrake?

 

I wonder how it will figure into the story.  All we know for sure so far is that mandrake is growing in Connie's grandmother's yard.

 

I tried unsuccessfully to insert a link to mandrake on Wikipedia.

Message Edited by Fozzie on 03-30-2009 09:09 AM
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
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CathyB
Posts: 271
Registered: ‎12-30-2006

Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6

I agree April. I suspect that the 'hungry' description and the need for her to find an 'original' source means that he plans to steal her idea/work. There is something 'strange' about him.

 

I also have to agree that the descriptions are spot-on. I have such a clear picture of the environment and I feel that I am actually there.

 

CathyB

 


aprilh wrote:

Did anyone else get the feeling that Professor Chilton is up to something? Something about the way he kept smiling at Connie in their meeting when she showed him the paper with Deliverance Dane's name written on it struck me as odd. I'm not sure if he's just a little condescending to her or if there is something more. I think my suspicions were also heightened when Connie overheard him yelling on the phone. When she asked him about his project for the Colonial Association, he just played it off saying there was more time for that later and started smiling at her again. Interesting how at the end of the meeting the only word she could use to describe his smile to herself was "hungry".

The descriptions in this book are wonderful. They are so vivid, they make you feel as if you are really there. I'm loving this book so far. Very well written!


 

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rose1957
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Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6

This is my first time using the B&N online book club and am not sure how I can post a new comment without replying to a previous one.  I have not read an entire book in years (only magazine articles).  I just discovered the First Look Book Club and am now reading The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and cannot put it down!!  I, too, agree that Professor Chilton is up to something but am not sure what. 

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scarpettajunkie
Posts: 22
Registered: ‎03-23-2009

Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6

I think Professor Chilton is evil or at the very least up to no good.  Otherwise, my impressions are what you would expect.  I think Arlo is Connie's familiar she just does not know it yet.  Connie's daydreams are really visions.  She just does not have faith enough in herself to believe it yet.  Connie is more reclusive and Liz is more social.  They are opposites.  Sam gives tangible proof that witchcraft was more than idea.  It was real to the people who lived back then.  He shines the light of truth on the cornerstone. 

 

The courtroom and examination room are different because Connie's professors can always look the answer up in a book.  Otherwise the two are very similar by putting a person in the "hot seat", searching for the right answer, giving a verdict, etc.

Scarpettajunkie lover of Cornwell and historical fiction
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amajor
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Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6

I too think that the good professor is up to something, and I also had thought that maybe he intended to steal her work.  We shall see!

 

I also agree with the PP who said it was unrealistic that all the vegetables were growing wild.  Unless someone had some sort of magical ability to grow a super garden.  Lol!

 

You guys have already hit on a lot of the points, and I wanted to say that I also felt that Connie is kind of stuck up, and I don't think that her and I would be friends in real life.

 

My biggest pet peeve so far is the house situation.  It's hard to believe that all of those years went by without anyone bothering them for taxes or the neighbors harassing them because it's an eyesore.   I have a good idea where this is going, but I won't jump to conclusions yet.

 

So far though, so good.  I have no desire to dissect this book sentence by sentence.  I like it.

---Abby

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- Groucho Marx
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CathyB
Posts: 271
Registered: ‎12-30-2006

Re: Part I, Chapters 1-6

The character I like the least is Professor Chilton. Although Peter is causing considerable pain fo Deliverance, I feel that he is not doing it maliciously - he is overwrought with grief and guilt about losing his only child and is lashing out. Things obviously will spiral out of control. Professor Chilton has a 'slimey' quality about him. Not something I can actually put my finger on but, more of an impression. Based on his comment at the end of the orals and his subsequent meeting with Connie, prompting her to find that 'original' source, I think that he is up to something. As I have the tendency to think the worst of people and since I have been in a similar position in the work environment, I beleive that he will attempt to steal her idea/work.

 

I do like Deliverance eventhough the character has yet to be fully flushed out. Connie and Liz have an interesting dynamic. Liz brings Connie 'down to earth' when Connie is either 'dreaming of the past' or holding herself on the outside of a situation. I think that Liz and Connie fit in perfectly at Harvard. They are PhD candidates which does isolate themselves a bit from the rest of the student body and from the professors as they have not yet gained accessinto this exclusive arena.

 

I think that Arlo and Connie have a nice relationship. He definitely reminds me of the dog from the past and I have a feeling that not only is Connie related to Deliverance but, that Arlo is of the same line of dogs as the original one. I find him to be a sort of 'guide' to Connie - one of conscience and in other ways - finding the house, the mandrake root, etc...

 

Truth is subjective to the times. When science was not playing a major role, religion, emotion (specially fear) and politics played the major roles in determining the outcome. In the coutroom, it was hearsay, religion and fear of the unknown that lead to the accusations and the subsequent testimonies. What could not be explained (i.e. medicine) had to be either God's will or a demon's. During the oral exam, truth has a 'purer' form. It is based on all that is known from the past. Viewing both facts and analyses of others and then drawing a logical conclusion. Emotion does not have a role.

 

I think that Sam has given Connie the opportunity to find her 'passion' once again for research. His take that witchcraft could have been real has yet to seriously change Connie's opinion on withcraft but, it may have opened her up to the possibility that all she knows is not all there is to know. Granted, she has heard the comment before about whether or not witchcraft was 'real' (i.e. from Professor Chilton during the oral exam) but, always brushed it aside citing references to dispute that position. I believe that she just may have started to allow the possibiity because she likes him.

 

CathyB