Cover Image: In Defense of Witches

In Defense of Witches

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Member Reviews

There are so many books and movies out now that portray witches as evil, worshippers of Satan. I expected this book to compare how women were viewed then and now.

And the introduction did some of that. The rest was more of a personal rant about feminism.

We know any woman who was troublesome for a man could be killed as a witch. While the research was well-done, the book really missed the mark for me.

NetGalley/ March 8th, 2022 by St. Martin’s Press
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I found In Defense of Witches: The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women Are Still on Trial to be interesting to read. I am giving it three and a half stars.
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DNF at 20%. I really tried to get into this book, but I could not force myself to read it. Honestly, I think it is more of a personal preference, but I was very bored while reading this book. The introduction was excessively long and disorganized. I was hoping that the organization would improve, but it did not in the first chapter. Overall, the title and description sounded really interesting, but what I read of the book felt unfocused.
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Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for my DRC of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion. 

"In Defense of Witches" by Mona Chollet is a nonfiction book about the historical and cultural context and longevity of the witch and its being a symbol of feminine rebellion and independence. Right off the bat, I was super excited to get approved for this one. I'm always interested in learning more about witches as a concept and as a symbol and from the reviews of this, I thought I'd be getting that. Unfortunately, while the whole prologue/introduction does a great job of explaining and connecting historical facts to witches within the time's culture, the rest of the novel veers off course immediately after. 

I thought the rest of the novel felt completely disconnected from the introduction because it honestly felt like Chollet was really grasping for straws with some of her historical and pop culture connections. It honestly felt like the historical context and connection came very last behind pop culture reference after pop culture reference. I loved that introduction because it does a great job of setting up a possibly informative text about history AND culture, but unfortunately, that was not the case. I also felt like a lot of the chapters just came across like a blog post by a recently turned feminist. 

I did learn quite a bit from that introduction but as for the rest of the novel...it was like reading someone's "academic" tumblr post written by somebody who believes they are an authority on the subject.
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I don't think this works well as either a book about feminism or a book about witches. Chollet's writing is unorganized, too anecdotal, and light on analysis. Any references to witches and witch hunts are few and far between (with the exception of the introduction which is easily the best part of the book).
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This book has a lot to say. Much of it in the introduction. This one reads like a thesis with all its quotes and footnotes and name dropping. So much so that you get a little lost trying to figure out whose words you are reading. And we needn’t try so hard to impress the reader with your extensive vocabulary. It makes it hard to read. 

In Defense of Witches discusses how witches are/were portrayed and that men and women alike have been trying for thousands of years to keep women from getting to that point. That point, though, is that people age. Men are not expected to do everything they can to prevent it but women are. This essay discusses how, perhaps, women should embrace the actual witch of yore and live their lives without succumbing to the pressure to stay young. Don’t worry about what other people think - be you!  Witch trials be damned.

I think this could read a lot better in the authors own words, rather than endless citations and whole pages of snippets from other works. I was given an ARC for my honest review.
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Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for the arc of this book! I'm trying to read more nonfiction but I'm not sure this one was for me. There were a great number of quotations that felt distracting and made the book feel overly long. I liked the references to things I remember either watching or reading and the book gave me an insight that I didn't have then. I really loved that I learned a lot form the book I just wish it had been easier to read. I think someone who is more used to reading nonfiction would love this because it really opened my eyes to new ideas. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
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The author is witty charming & able to present many things palatably. I enjoyed the book and agree with the basis of the stereotypes & outcasts as well as the amount of  history in the book. I just looked at my notes & found them too heavy & grueling so will leave  this as  a good modern book on feminism that is progressive & tried to be more inclusive.
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In Defense of Witches by Mona Chollet is a very well-researched yet very accessible look at how the witch hunts and the popular perceptions of witches has persisted to this day in different form but with the same intent.

While some would like a Readers Digest version of the book and have it stop after the introduction, it is in the details where the commonalities between witch hunts and current patriarchal restraints, both subtle and blatant, become evident. Just saying it is so does little to convince anyone, but showing instance after instance, interspersed with feminist theory, pulls the rug out from under any doubters.

It is often in the more low-key elements of culture that seeds are planted that grow into the timber that supports the patriarchy, so Chollet offers many instances from popular culture to highlight just how society tries to "keep women in line." If you've read or watched some of the texts discussed, you'll probably want to revisit them. Not only to see what you may have overlooked but to also better understand how to actively engage with other texts in the future.

I was personally most interested in the ways that the witch hunts we widely think of as a thing of the past have simply morphed into more subtle, and in some ways more sinister, forms of control and punishment. Looking at the information as laid out for the reader, I have a much better understanding and appreciation for the various ways women can and do re-appropriate not only words but indeed their own sexuality and make them work to their benefit and happiness rather than as means of controlling them.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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This book is not what I expected. Instead of being about "witches", it was more about women's rights, feminism, and the history of the oppression of women. I think it was maybe mis-titled. As far as the content of the book, it was very informative, seems well researched and thorough.
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In Defense of Witches is celebrated feminist Mona Chollet’s newly translated exploration of the three types of woman persecuted in modern society and their connection to the witches persecuted in the witch hunts hundreds of years ago. 

This book started strong for me, with an interesting exploration of the witch hunts across the globe, but quickly derailed. The information in this book was incredibly interesting and a great exploration of multinational feminism, but often felt less researched and more anecdotal or inferred. It seemed at one point like 10% of the book was Chollet defending her own decision not to have children while exploring the prosecution of childless woman. For a book about defending witches, witches rarely came up and the conclusions were often left to the reader to make the connections for. There were multiple instances where I hope there were mistranslations, because the information was so off. For instance, maybe I misread, but Chollet seems to imply at one point that while the media loves to show childless mothers regretting their decisions, that in real life only mothers have regrets. 

I wanted to enjoy this book, but it just did not live up to the expectations I had for it.
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The subject matter is compelling, as it affects the lives of every woman who’s ever lived since the first witch was born. As a woman who’s experienced her unfair share of oppression, I jumped at the chance to read this book.

This is not a book to be taken lightly. The subject matter and the way it is so thoroughly examined can be exhausting to read. I took it in small doses, as I needed frequent breaks to think about what I’d just read. I suspect this well-researched (there’s 562 footnotes!) book will end up in many Women’s Studies classes.

What kinds of women are persecuted? It was an eye-opener to realize that I fit all three categories the author chose to examine: The Independent Woman, The Childless Woman, and I’ve recently started edging my way into the Elderly Woman. It’s no wonder I’ve felt the need to defend my lifestyle and beliefs ever since I first moved out on my own. The witch hunts have never ended, and we need to recognize that.

My thanks to author Mona Chollet, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital advance review copy of this book. This review is my honest and unbiased opinion.
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This was an interesting story that didn’t exactly live up to my expectations. It had a lot of facts that made for a unique read if you were looking for a lot of information without much of a story. I did skim through parts of it as my brain wondered at times. I do want to go back at some point and reread to refocus on different parts.
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I was very interested in this book from the description that was emailed to me. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It was more anecdotal than research based. It came off as a rally speech more than educational. It certainly had some interesting things to say but overall it fell flat for me.
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I received an advanced readers’ copy in exchange for an honest review

Very powerful book – definitely the most encompassing on this topic. Recommended for all feminists and women’s studies students to read. Definitely an important book of this moment. I will be passing it on to my fellow crones of a certain age.
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Interesting but not really my cup of tea. Well written I just personally couldn’t get into the story.  I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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This book was not what I was expecting but what I absolutely needed. I love how it pointed out all of the ways that women still face oppression today but wish it would’ve had more on the specific treatment of Black women and other Women of Color as they face sexism and racism. . Could definitely see this book being dissected in Women’s Studies’ classes for years to come.
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Not nearly as provocative as its title might suggest, Mona Chollet's "In Defense of Witches: The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women Are Still on Trial" explores three types of women who were accused of witchcraft and persecuted:

1) The Independent Woman - especially celibates and widows
2) The Childless Woman
3) The Elderly Woman

Working within this framework, noted French feminist Chollet crafts an extensively resourced and researched collection of prose, personal reflections, and critical theory in determining that the legacy of the witch hunts continues and, as I think would likely surprise no one, women continue to be on trial in ways very directly connected to those witch hunts of yesteryear to this day.

If you're expecting some sort of poetic journey through the world of witchcraft, you will likely find "In Defense of Witches" a tiresome and perhaps even meandering read. Chollet, unsurprisingly for those who know her work, leans far more heavily into feminism than the fantastic and is absolutely relentless about doing so.

While the structure of "In Defense of Witches" may seem loose, it's a book that rewards those who persevere with it through the very end as Chollet's structure really comes to life when seen through the lens of its wholeness and it's Chollet's ability to argue both academically and personally that makes this a particularly impactful and effective work. You may not agree with everything that Chollet writes, and if you're not a feminist you likely won't, but it's practically undeniable that Chollet argues well and she documents precisely and beautifully.

There's a thin line of emotional resonance that radiates throughout the pages of "In Defense of Witches," a bit surprising given Chollet's devotion to academics but a line that gives the book an additional layer of power. "In Defense of Witches," I would dare say, is also a wee bit funny especially when Chollet lays into herself for her occasionally living into those gender stereotypes she works so passionately to derail.

I'm not sure I'd be considered the target audience for "In Defense of Witches," though I enjoyed it thoroughly and am undoubtedly influenced by it. I had to laugh a bit as I arrived about 2/3 of the way through the book only to realize I'd arrived at book's end with the remainder of its pages largely devoted to Chollet's remarkably extensive source material.

The ultimate conclusion, if you will, is that these witch hunts from the past continue in the present and are far from some romanticized period in our history. Indeed, they deserve to not be romanticized but to be permanently placed in the past along with all the other cultural and institutionalized forms of misogyny. Women have always been hunted down and killed for their thoughts and actions, though the methods have changed and the justifications varied.

With intelligence, insight, and tremendous wisdom, Mona Chollet has crafted an engaging and influential journey through feminism past and present and the price that women continue to pay for being women.
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Book available March 2022 from St. Martin’s Press.
A powerful review of how the word witch is at once synonymous with “female” and “bad” to this day, as well as references to all the witches in storylore we love to hate and love to love. Fun fact: Glinda, from The Wizard of Oz, was the first mainstream “good witch” and was based on L. Frank Baum’s mother-in-law. While there is a lot going on in these pages (from how the term “witch hunt” has diminished the true meaning and tragedy of what victims of historical witch hunts endured to welfare to sexuality to the work-life balance of working mothers and whether or not that is a narcissistic endeavor), it is compiled with purpose. I enjoyed the nods to every storylore witch I could think of, and some I had not heard of (I have added The Glassblower’s Children to my to-read list). I also enjoyed the way the author tried connecting the dots between history and current events. Although this is not something I would normally read, it was mostly engaging.

I felt, however, that all of what was expanded on in the book was given in short in the introduction, and made the book itself exhaustive and extensive, like a book report gone on too long. A lot of clever connections and nods, but I feel it could have been re-edited and condensed.
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I would like to thank Netgalley and St Martin's press for the ARC. Opinions expressed are my own.

Mona Cholet's original in French deep dives into the witch trials of Europe and also delves into the impact of it in our current day including the representation of witches in media.

Witch hints in Europe started in 1400 and went through Renaissance rill 1560. The last ones were in the 18th century.

Mona explains her initial fascination with witches. It started with Snow white's witch who appears as a warty old woman.
She also tells the story of Flutter who lived alone on a mountain not caring what the local people thought. She was a bringer of positive news for her little village.
This lead to the author having a positive connotation for witches rather than the negative one that society has formed.

The oldest stories we have track women as evil or having evil intentions. Be it Pandora or Eve.


Witch-hunters are revealed as both obsessed with and terrified by female sexuality.
There was an intent by men to demonize women who held any kind of opinion.
Anything was construed as unworthy of women and therefore a witch trait.

I quote this from the book
"Talking back to a neighbor, speaking loudly, having a strong character or showing a bit too much awareness of your own sexual appeal: being a nuisance of any kind would put you in danger. According to a paradoxical dynamic familiar to women in all eras, every behavior and its opposite could be used against you"

Mona makes you realize how hard women had it. She has done extensive research on the witch hunts and trials and it shows. 

I absolutely recommend this as a read for every woman.
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