A Secret History of Witches is a book by Louisa Morgan published on September 5, 2017. This piece of historical fiction is full of feminism, wonder, womanhood, magic, and motherhood. This story covers five generations of the same line of witches with the last name Orchiéres and their journey through life as secret witches.
The first chapters cover the life of Nanette, the last of five sisters raised by Gradmére Ursule, who was the strongest witch in their line to date. Their story begins during the nineteenth-century in Brittany, to where they flee as a family from the witch burnings in their hometown. After Gradmére Ursule dies, Nanette inherits the largest part of the gift of magic within her sisters and helps their new established farm bloom into prosperity. She falls in love with a passerby and has a baby girl who she names Ursule in honor of her grandmother.
The chapters follow Ursule , who isn’t raised in the craft and grows to be practical and a non-believer. Ursule thrives as a farmer, she marries a hardworking farmer in town and, as the sisters become old and die, they become the head of the family. It is when she desires a baby of her own that she begins to believe her mother and experiments with the idea of being a witch. This desire leads her to fall out of her practical life into an extramarital relationship and to the misuse of the craft which has unexpected tragic consequences. Nevertheless, Ursule has a baby girl who she names Irene.
Irene was born out of selfishness and her life reflects her conception by the need for a more material life. This desire drives Irene to be selfish with the craft neglecting her own mother’s farming life and hard work. Irene’s selfishness with the craft leads her to eventually envy her own daughter, Morwen, and her unexpectedly strong gift for the craft. This leads to the climax of the book (which I won’t spoil).
The last chapters follow Morwen’s daughter, Veronica, during the Second World War in London. During this time, the book explores the impact that magic can have of horrific events such as fighting to the death and, in my opinion, one of the best love plot lines of the book.
Even though I was left wanting to read more, I was glad I picked this book on my trip to the bookstore. A Secret History of Witches explores the different types of bonds that women who share familial bonds, such as daughters and mothers, can develop and how magical or terrifying they can be as well as the impact it has on character and personality. You will learn to love and resent some of these lovely feminine characters for their extremely human characteristics and storylines.