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“Stylish and raw…seizes the reader’s sympathy and does not let go.” —Anne Enright, Booker Prize–winning author of The Gathering
For readers of Margaret Atwood and Hilary Mantel, an immersive literary debut inspired by historical events—a deadly witch hunt in 17th-century England—that claimed many innocent lives.
East Anglia, 1645. Martha Hallybread, a midwife, healer, and servant, has lived peacefully for more than four decades in her beloved seaside village of Cleftwater. Having lost her voice as a child, Martha has not spoken a word in years.
One autumn morning, a sinister newcomer appears in town. The witchfinder, Silas Makepeace, has been blazing a trail of destruction along the coast, and now has Cleftwater in his sights. His arrival strikes fear into the heart of the community. Within a day, local women are being captured and detained, and Martha finds herself a silent witness to the hunt.
Powerless to protest, Martha is enlisted to search the accused women for “devil’s marks.” She is caught between suspicion and betrayal; between shielding herself or condemning the women of the village. In desperation, she revives a wax witching doll that belonged to her mother, in the hope that it will bring protection. But the doll’s true powers are unknowable, Martha harbors a terrible secret, and the gallows are looming…
Set over the course of just a few weeks that will forever change history, The Witching Tide delivers powerful and psychologically astute insights about the exigencies of friendship and the nature of loyalty, and heralds the arrival of a striking new voice in fiction.
About the Author
Margaret Meyer was born in Canada, grew up in New Zealand and now lives in Norwich, England. She worked in publishing and literature promotion before becoming a therapist. She completed an MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. The Witching Tide, her first novel, was inspired by the events of the 1645–7 East Anglian witch hunt and is dedicated to the more than 100 innocent women who lost their lives.
“Meyer’s atmospheric debut novel transports readers to a community gripped by fear, paranoia and accusation, vividly conveying a hysteria that threatens to engulf all reason.” —New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice
“Meyer is a formidable storyteller; her sharp descriptive powers offer readers an immersive experience... The Witching Tide is the remarkable story of the women who survived cruel, unjust imprisonment and went on to reclaim their rightful place in a community forever diminished by the hanging of so many innocent women. It is also a forceful interrogation of what happens when pious paranoia, stoked by ignorance, engulfs men already drunk on their own power.” —Shelf Awareness, starred review
“Immersive… The author offers a stirring depiction of the selfishness, revenge, and fear behind the accusations. This evocative narrative is sure to pique readers’ curiosity about the witch trials.” —Publishers Weekly
“Meyer’s saga of prejudicial ignorance and the horrors that result from innuendo campaigns is replete with period and chilling atmospheric detail. Meyer’s narrative illuminates a dark historical period (and cautions against its re-creation).” —Kirkus
“With characters refreshingly of their time, rather than straw men parroting the mores of ours, this novel is an immersive tale of the East Anglian witch trials as seen through the eyes of an absorbing protagonist. It showcases the horrors inflicted by social hysteria, and offers a three-dimensional view of individual participants whose roles and motivations are differently shaped by religious faith, interpersonal connections, and intellectual acuity. This is an accomplished debut work by an author to watch.” —Booklist
“A fraught tale of prejudicial assumptions, ignorance, misogyny, and the horrors they can give rise to.” —Paste Magazine
“Reminiscent of both The Scarlet Letter and Hamnet... extremely well-executed historical fiction.” —Jezebel
“The Witching Tide is one of those rare novels that pulled me in and wouldn't let go. With diamond-cut prose, Meyer makes 17th century witch hunts feel vivid, new, and highly relevant to the current moment. The chaos, the twisted logic made me wonder if it was possible these historical events actually happened; the essential truths of human nature as seen in these characters made me worry they could happen again.” —Mary Beth Keane, author of The Half Moon
“The Witching Tide is propelled by the utter conviction of the writing, in prose that is both stylish and raw. Martha seizes the reader’s sympathy and does not let go.” —Anne Enright, author of The Gathering
“A beautiful, haunting and utterly transporting novel that takes the reader back to a terrifyingly real witching England: a paranoic society where women’s lives are decided by gossip and grudges. Told from the perspective of a silent woman whose inner voice insistently pulls the reader along, The Witching Tide is atmospheric, moving and lyrical.” —Naomi Wood, author of Mrs. Hemingway
“Meyer evokes the uncanniness, the appalling cruelties of the witch trials in a way that is also thoroughly humane. To read this book is to step inside time, to feel the bite of the sea air, to walk in the grime alongside Martha as she fights the tide of suspicion. It is a powerful, riveting read, each sentence pristine and haunting.”—Elizabeth Macneal, author of The Doll Factory
“A timely, visceral novel that hurls the reader into a community riddled with suspicion, fear and recrimination. Margaret Meyer expertly creates an atmosphere of creeping dread, where no one is safe, and women find themselves punished for their own misfortunes and those of their erstwhile friends and neighbors.” —Natalie Haynes, author of A Thousand Ships
“Utterly haunting and entirely riveting; The Witching Tide is an unflinching account of the horrors of witch trials, told in a mesmerizing voice from an extraordinarily talented author. It sent shivers down my spine and brought me to tears.” —Jennifer Saint, author of Ariadne
“The Witching Tide casts a spell that carries readers back to 17th century days of actual witch hunts, when fearmongers spread rumor and false accusations to wield power over women. In bewitching language, Margaret Meyer paints a portrait of a brave midwife determined to outwit the zealots who threaten her, and defeat a contagion of hysteria and violence."
—Kate Manning, author of Gilded Mountain
“Meyer is a superb writer. The world she conjures here is elegant and haunting, utterly beguiling and convincing of time and place. I was gripped by Martha’s plight, captivated by the gleaming details of the prose and horrified at the wider picture they revealed. As with all great historical fiction, The Witching Tide gives voice to the unspoken and brings light to dark places, drawing to the surface those stories that need to be told and need us to listen.” —Emma Stonex, author of The Lamplighters