Cover Image: In Defense of Witches

In Defense of Witches

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Member Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

I had high expectations and unfortunately, was left underwhelmed. For the most part it was very dryly written. It was almost a constant struggle to stay focused on what I was reading. With that said, there were a couple parts that grabbed my attention for a short time. Unfortunately, I quickly lost interest again. It felt the same as reading a textbook or listening to a college lecture from a monotone professor. 

While this book wasn't for me, it's always a good idea to have a taste test for yourself. As you can see by the ratings my dislike of this book puts me in the minority so there are things others have found good within the pages.
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I am so glad I requested this book! What an excellent look at the realities that surrounded witches throughout the centuries. Witches have long had a unfair reputation, and one of the most interesting things to learn is where the truth lies within the myths--so many of these myths revolving women and assumptions. Chollet did an excellent job not only explaining these things, she did it in a way that is understandable and accessible. An excellent book and I'll be recommending it!
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There’s a lot of personal conjecture presented as sweeping statements, i.e. Susan Sontag’s white streak reminding the author of Cruella de Vil does not equal society hates witches; most of us have always found Sontag beautiful and are shaped by the same superficial impulses. She presents women as completely and diametrically opposed to men in social construction. I’m not exactly a men’s rights activist, but in Chapter One she states, “our culture looks after its men.” What culture is that? French, Western? It’s certainly not American, where male suicide rates are sky high and our emphasis on male strength at all costs results in so much violence. I understand the overall argument the book was making, but I think it needed more development, more analysis of the evidence (as opposed to dropping in a quote and walking away), and more nuance. “Woman” is not a singular category, and while the author would occasionally nod to black or queer women, they were never truly incorporated into her claims. She does sometimes do well giving examples that sexism did and does exist, but her connections to witch-hunts are loose and oversimplified. And when discussing history, she often uses historical fiction to support her points, when actual historical evidence of the same is plentiful. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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In Defense of Witches is a non-fiction book about the connections between witch hunts and modern-day feminism. It explores the three types of women who were accused of witchcraft most often: the childless, the elder, the independent. It's easy to notice that these archetypes are also the ones most judged in today's world: our society constantly evaluates women based on their age, their relationship status, and their fertility.

The history of witch hunts, which mostly comes up in the introduction to the book, is truly fascinating. As Chollet mentions, there isn't another mass crime in human history that is treated with such lightheartedness. We tend to think of witches either as scary horror characters or more modern 'girlbosses' with crystals and sage from Amazon, and we often forget that these women were real people who died for no reason. In the later chapters, Chollet mostly focuses on the way we treat women today, and while that is equal parts interesting and enraging, I wish we got more of the history of witch hunts. I was very happy that Chollet's approach to the feminism she writes about is intersectional, and she doesn't focus only on white women.

Overall, In Defense of Witches is a well-researched and thought-provoking read that uses a horrifying moment in history to help us understand why our society looks the way it does currently.
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Really well written and hugely engaging. I devoured this book in one sitting. 

Thank you NetGalley for this arc
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I've tried starting this a few times but I just can't get into it. Thank you for the opportunity to read an advanced copy.
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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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