Cover Image: Toil and Trouble

Toil and Trouble

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

On an initial glance, Toil and Trouble: A Women’s Guide to the Occult looks to be a short overview of various women who have been important to Occultism and related areas (e.g. Witchcraft, Wicca, tarot) through the ages. On a closer read, however, I was most disappointed by this title. 

As I read this book, I noticed — time and again — evidence of bad research (where are the citations, sources?) despite this being written by academics. There were facts that were misleading — Salem being the first instance of the Occult in the USA? Really? — and others that were just plain wrong. For instance, Pamela Colman Smith died in poverty in Cornwall (not London, as is claimed) and her grave is most likely to be in Bude. She also converted to Roman Catholicism, not Catholicism. These are just a few examples of the many errors in this book, which is mainly US-focused and not a complete guide by any means. 

As an experienced Witch, tarot reader, and Occultist, I found this book to be a poor addition to the field, and would not recommend it to anyone. Avoid. 

I received an e-ARC from the publisher, Quirk Books, through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This was an enjoyable, though short, dive into the history of the occult. It was an interesting and quick read, but I couldn't help wishing that it was longer and dived in with a little more detail. A nice book to gift for a small present I reckon.
Was this review helpful?
After struggling through 36% of this book and putting it down, I need to accept that I just really have no desire to pick it back up again. This one is a DNF for me, sorry.

I don't think this is well suited to the ebook format - perhaps it works better as a dip in and out type coffee table book. 

This book should theoretically be fascinating to me, and theoretically I was interested in the content but I just couldn't stay engaged with it at all. There are a number of short entries about different women through history and the way they used the occult to claw some power and voice for themselves. This should have been right up my alley but it was just felt dry and disjointed. I couldn't remember or even muster enthusiasm for any of the entries because it just feels like reading an encyclopaedia.

I've given this three stars because perhaps in a different format, I might have been able to engage with this better.
Was this review helpful?
This is an amazing dive into the history of what women have experienced. I really enjoyed the information and the book itself is gorgeous! The perfect addition to a witchy shelf! I have enjoyed the previous titles that this amazing duo have released and they are definitely worth checking out!
Was this review helpful?
Utterly fabulous and I cannot find enough five star words to describe it. Loved it, found it interesting, ordered a copy for my teen and one of my friends as a gift. Just brilliant. 

You don't need to be a pagan, witch or else to enjoy this book. In essence it is a history book of the occult. About people who practised it, why they practised it and when the practised. It's super inclusive as well, which is an absolute bonus. 

My husband is bit exhausted from me constantly reading out passages to him, but it's a book to share with people.
Was this review helpful?
Honestly, I’m a little disappointed with this one. I adored their first book Monster, She Wrote, so had high hopes here. And while the book is still gorgeous and mostly engaging, something’s off. I love the way they write, but I found myself bored at times. I also recognize that this was a history of witchcraft/occult in the US, but they kind of ignored that the US wasn’t the first in a number of things, which made some of the info incorrect. For example, Most Haunted, the British ghost hunting show, was around for two years before Ghost Hunters and already big. It was just little things like that that rubbed me the wrong way. I liked a lot of this. I also didn’t like a lot. Falls pretty averagely for me.
Was this review helpful?
What the heck was I expecting? Anything short of glorious? I’m convinced that these two absolute GIFTS don’t know how to write anything subpar. This book was magnificent from page ONE and the perfect follow up to their masterwork from 2019, Monster, She Wrote. These two writers are essential for your shelf and make you not only a better reader, but a better observer and note taker, and heck…a better human being. I’ve learned so much from them and I value each lesson that has come to me through their work. This is my favorite kind of text book and I know I just said this recently, but THIS BOOK NEEDS TO BE TAUGHT. I personally cannot wait to teach a Kröger/Anderson non-fic lit class at a university near you.

⚠️ BE WARNED!! Your TBR will double after reading this book. ⚠️
Was this review helpful?
I was very excited to read this book as it is such an interesting topic that you do not see much on, especially one that is so inclusive. However, I was incredibly disappointed in the level of research conducted, lack of sources, lack of bibliography and the presumptive writing style. There was a lot of incorrect  information being pushed as fact at the beginning of the book and due to this I was not able to finish it. I was shocked that these were professors who wrote this, who did not know how to properly site, research or write a non-fiction work that they are pushing as being fact. The most blatant was when they said Salem is the first time we see the Occult in the United States when a simple google search pops up academic journals clearly stating otherwise. (No dates mentioned by the way, and this occurred around 1690) There are references of the occult in the U.S in the 1640s in Connecticut and I’m sure earlier ones than that.

Also, another huge issue I had with this work is the authors presume to know what the individual’s intentions, thoughts and feelings were about certain situations without providing legitimate first hand accounts whether that is through writing or verba. This is a huge no.no when writing history as we cannot assume to know what an individual is thinking or their motives and then present our own projections of the situation as fact. Let alone doing it without sourcing. 

This work was lazy, poorly researched and badly written where the authors spent more time worrying about the aesthetic of the work than the actual content. I never rate anything 1 star but I can’t in good conscience give this anything more as that would mean it had something redeemable.  I know this may seem harsh, but it boils my blood when you see a work being pushed as informative, non-fiction only to find out it is riddled with false and misleading information. 

Also, just to clarify my background, I did a double major in English Lit and Communications (focus on media and war propaganda) with a minor in History (modern warfare/Russian/German history) aka, my whole degree was based around how to properly write and research.
Was this review helpful?
I had good expectations for this book. I thought it would be an interesting and unique take on women's history. Unfortunately I DNFed it. The writing was alright but it was leaning towards dull and did not draw me in as much as I would have liked. While each chapter was about a different individual or group, there was not much to connect them and felt more like reading off a timeline and checking off boxes than showing how they were all connected. It was not as enjoyable as I had hoped.
Was this review helpful?
I had so much hope for this one! I really thought that given how much interest I have always had with this subject that this book would be captivating but sadly the opposite happened. 
As much as I wanted to enjoy this book I found it really dull. The information was just really flat and I felt more like I was being lectured a series of dates and facts rather than spellbound as I hoped. I only managed to get 40% of the way through before admitting defeat however I have seen that others absolutely love this book so it may just be a bit or a marmite book and you either love it or it doesn’t work for you. 
Such a shame but no book can please everyone and there’s every chance it improved greatly in the second half. 
Have you read it and if so what did you think?
Was this review helpful?
I appreciated the authors focusing on why marginalized people are more likely to lean towards witchcraft. From the celebrity spirit mediums of the nineteenth century to contemporary activist witches hexing the patriarchy, women have long used magic and mysticism to seize the power they’re so often denied. This was an interesting look at history and voices that have often been silenced.
Was this review helpful?
The absolute perfect book for spooky season! <u> Toil and Trouble</u> focuses on the history of witchcraft and those who practice it. Throughout the ages, we've had varying degrees of opinions as a society when it comes to the craft, from the witch trials, to the satanic panic, to todays' witchtok, this book covers it all. Well written and explained, I would recommend it to anyone interested in a little more background about the craft.
Was this review helpful?
Back in 2019 I read and loved Monster She Wrote, a book all about “The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction” by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson. Toil and Trouble is the latest non-fiction book from the same authors and looks at Women’s History of the Occult, from the Salem Witch Trials to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and right up to today’s proliferation of witches and witchcraft on social media.

Toil and Trouble profiles dozens of women from across (largely American) history whose lives have been intertwined with the occult. There are names you’ll almost certainly know such as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, and Marie Laveau – the so-called voodoo queen of New Orleans. Others you may remember from history class such as Ann Putnam Jr and Abigail Williams, two of the accusers in Salem, while others will probably be new to most readers including The Public Universal Friend (a genderless being who claimed to be a vessel for a prophet) and Helen Peters Nosworthy (the creator of the Ouija Board). As well as those who embraced the occult, the book also looks at many women who worked to try and debunk such claims such as Roe Mackenberg, a private investigator who worked with Harry Houdini.

Interspersed with the biographies are numerous short interludes that look at subjects such as the connections between the occult and activism, the impact of popular culture like D&D or the 90s cult movie The Craft, the dangers of celebrity psychics, and the ways that race plays into women’s relationship with the occult. These help to widen the purview of the book, building context for the lives the women featured here lived.

Toil and Trouble is a fascinating and at times infuriating look at the ways in which women have gained power through the occult, been persecuted by it, and forged relationships with one another through it. It’s a perfect choice if you’re looking for something a little more grounded in the real world this Spooky Season.
Was this review helpful?
This book runs deep with the history of witchcraft.  Each section provides fascinating insight into all of the facets of the practice of witchcraft and magic.  It  is a wondrous collection of stories, mostly of women, who practiced the art of witchcraft sometimes successfully and sometimes with great peril.  The practice and belief in witchcraft is so much more than what you see in the media and this book provides excellent detail about what it means to really be a Witch.
Was this review helpful?
4⭐️ An insightful and interesting read about the history of witchcraft and the occult in america

This was a great read that was fairly short but packed in a lot of information, all relevant and interesting and seemingly well researched. There were many women discussed in this book who i’d never heard of before and it was good to see them discussed, and get a page in the history books. So often, literature and discussion around witchcraft is limited to salem, and a lot of this is manipulated to suit a particular story, fictional world or agenda so it was refreshing to read something that went beyond this.

The authors were respectful when writing about particularly difficult or potentially problematic events without shying away from the fact that they happened. I would love to see a follow up book that looks deeper into the journey of witchcraft in Europe or the United Kingdom!
Was this review helpful?
“ So how did we get from Salem to today’s proud witches? Centuries of women responded to these accusations by using the occult as a route to power.”

Just like their previous book this one had me so excited and didn’t let me down. Love learning about history especially pertaining to women. Cannot wait for this to be published to read it with one of my bookclubs!
Was this review helpful?
Exactly as the subtitle suggests, this book is an anthology of influential female figures who shaped the occult world. The historical period explored here is vast, extending from the Salem witch trials to the modern-day WitchTok audience. A handful of pages are dedicated towards each figure and facts are provided about their person, the period they resided in, the politics surrounding their actions, what they enacted, and the resulting outcome. I found this a fascinating and beautiful book, perfect for any modern witch or those with an interest in the history of occult practises.

I especially appreciated the focus on why so many ostracised individuals felt the call for witchcraft in the first place. They often resided in societies that did not value them and sought an alternative source of power. On other times their status as 'other' made the collective easily make the leap to labelling them 'witch' for their own gain in disregarding or further demoting them in the societal hierarchies.
Was this review helpful?
This was an engaging, fascinating read. I learned a lot! I think anyone looking to dive history the occult and witchcraft needs this one.
Was this review helpful?
I love books about witches, and this is no exception. Full of history, charm, and a not-insignificant amount of magic.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed this one - I knew a lot of the women in it and their stories but it’s a great book to have it all in one place. I love that this book touched on cultural appropriation within the witchcraft community because not enough books do! 

Thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this book. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?