The Wonderful Discovery of Elizabeth Sawyer

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Pub Date 28 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 20 Oct 2022

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Description

The year is 1621: a time of paranoia following the English Reformation. In London’s Newgate prison, Elizabeth Sawyer, the mother of eleven children, lies shackled in her cell. Denounced as a witch by her woodland neighbours and condemned to death by the court, Elizabeth has one last chance to make her peace with this world. By way of confession, she tells the prison chaplain three stories about her life.

Chaplain Goodcole at first responds with revulsion. Like the court he condemns Elizabeth as wicked and depraved but as her execution draws near, his opinion shifts. Does this ‘ignorant’ countrywoman know something that he doesn’t? Has she indeed made a wonderful discovery, or has he, as his colleagues suspect, fallen under the spell of a wily and malign witch?

Based on a true story, this novel is rooted in the struggles of rural women 400 years ago. Exploring different types of power, it unravels the fear and superstitions surrounding any girl or woman who spoke her mind.

The year is 1621: a time of paranoia following the English Reformation. In London’s Newgate prison, Elizabeth Sawyer, the mother of eleven children, lies shackled in her cell. Denounced as a witch by...


A Note From the Publisher

Jonathan Vischer was born in London where he first worked as a craftsman and then trained as a teacher. Since moving to Northern Ireland in 1996, he has combined his work in schools with producing artwork and writing stories. For the past ten years, Jonathan has studied at The Seamus Heaney Centre in Queen’s University Belfast. His novel, The Wonderful Discovery of Elizabeth Sawyer, draws on his research into the historical character that inspired the play, The Witch of Edmonton.

Jonathan Vischer was born in London where he first worked as a craftsman and then trained as a teacher. Since moving to Northern Ireland in 1996, he has combined his work in schools with producing...


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ISBN 9781915603289
PRICE £3.99 (GBP)
PAGES 272

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Average rating from 17 members


Featured Reviews

The Wonderful Discovery of Elizabeth Sawyer by Jonathan Vischer

The year is 1621: a time of paranoia following the English Reformation. In London’s Newgate prison, Elizabeth Sawyer, the mother of eleven children, lies shackled in her cell. Denounced as a witch by her woodland neighbours and condemned to death by the court, Elizabeth has one last chance to make her peace with this world. By way of confession, she tells the prison chaplain three stories about her life.
This type of storyline is right up my street and the fact it is somewhat based on a real character is a double tick from me.
What a terrible time to be a woman , . annoy someone and be accused of being a witch , fall out with a neighbour - your a witch . Cure an illness , or suffer with mental health , yes , you are a witch !
Not a long read but an enjoyable one .

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Henry Goodcole, cleric & ordinary of Newgate Prison visits convicted witch Elizabeth Sawyer held in ‘Limbo’ the depths of Newgate prison. She tells him 3 stories in his attempts to get her confession before her arranged hanging.
We also learn of the ships the London company are preparing to sail to Nova Britannia along with women promised a new & exciting life as brides.
Based on true events I found this a fascinating read.

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I really wanted to like this book, and in parts I did, but as others have pointed out in their feedback, the use of he said, she said is very jarring after a while. It's a really interesting subject with so much potential, it's just hard to get past the first few chapters unfortunately. I'll pick it back up at a later date and hopefully be able to get into it then.

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I really wanted to like this book but could not engage with the story. I loved the idea but found the first section somewhat dull and repetitive. From then on I ended up skim reading and therefore felt unsatisfied. Not the fault of the writer, it just didn't click for me

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*Many thanks to Jonathan Vischer, The Book Guild, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
The novel revolves around a woman, Elizabeth Sawyer, who in 1621 is held in Newgate and who is believed to be a witch. The ordinary, Henry Goodcole, a layman who due to some circumstances was not ordained, dreams of having his own parish, is ordered to get her confession. The story of Sawyer's life changes his own in ways he was unable to predictr before meeting Elizabeth.
The novel has superbly detailed descriptions of London and the life the those imprisoned, for whatever reasons. I may guess the print copy may have a map which helps move around the 1early 17th century London. Also, a very interesting subplot is the historic, well-documented idea of English maids, so-called Jamestown Brides, to be sent overseas to find husbands among English settlers in Virginia.
The read is not an easy one despite being relatively short. It requires concentration on the vocabulary and language as the writing style is demanding.
if this is a debut novel, it is a good one.

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Many "witch" stories begin with first-hand accounts of how they had turned their neighbour's milk sour or consorted with the devil, however "The Wonderful Discovery of Elizabeth Sawyer" by Jonathan Vischer cuts straight to 7 days before she is hanged. Goodcole, Ordinary at Newgate is tasked with extracting her confession but instead Sawyer tells him 3 stories about her life. He becomes wrapped up in her case and investigates the facts. Based on a true story, this book is slow to gain my interest but I was involved in the plot and Goodcole's descent into madness (or bewitching?) by the end.

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This novel packs a punch from the start straight to the action of Henry Goodcole meeting Elizabeth Sawyer on in the darkness of Newgate prison. The writing explores faith, and assumptions of people of all standings around witchcraft. There is meticulous research about so many topics and I learned so much historically. The writing allows for strong visuals, I was transported back in time throughout.
There are many themes that are explored in this book, and it is an engaging read if you are interested in this particular era of history.
My only thought about improvement was that the book would have been better if it ended without as much reflection. I didn’t feel as though the last 60 pages or so added to the story. Despite this, I enjoyed this most in depth read and appreciated learning what it must have been like to live in the early 1600s

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I really wanted to like this story, as anything with witches in it normally has my heart, but unfortunately I just couldn't engage with it like I wanted to....

The story follows Henry Goodcole, chaplain of a prison, who has to listen to final confessions of prisoners in the hopes that they will beg forgiveness from God. He is due to do this for the imprisoned witch, Elizabeth Sawyer. She confesses to selling her soul to the Devil in order to save the soul of her unborn child and she is hung as punishment for her crimes.

I found the first half of this book to be difficult to digest. There was a lot less focus on witchcraft than I anticipated, and more focus on Goodcole's fear of God and his own battles with how he sees and understands Sawyer. The second half of the book was much more captivating for me, as a subplot is unearthed regarding young women being shipped off to other countries with the promise of a new life as a bride. The story requires attention and the vocabulary is demanding, definitely not literature for the faint hearted.

Overall, for a debut novel, this was definitely good. Personally, it just didn't align with my expectations regarding the storyline itself. However, I would be very interested to read any further works published by this author.

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this in exchange for honest review

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Based on a true story I was drawn right in.There was much to think about the struggles of women during that time the superstitions .A short but interesting story.#netgalley #bookguild.

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This was a quick read, easy to follow and very interesting. I did think that the book was about Elizabeth Sawyer but really it is about the chaplain. It's his version of the events. It's more focused on how he is feeling and what is going on around him.

It was a good book and it is very well researched and written. The imagery was there and it was like I could picture it all in my head. I enjoyed it very much and would read this author again.

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A true gem of a read. The Wonderful Discovery of Elizabeth Sawyer reminds us of the terrible fate that women have suffered at the hands of the church since the beginning of time. Seen as unclean, the bringers of sin, held in the clutch of satan-they are easy scapegoats for all of the ills of the world. The church (both catholic and Protestant) regularly subjected women to horrible punishments. Speaking out against injustice could brand you a witch. Be raped and be branded a whore. Become pregnant out of wedlock, you’re ruined. Be on the wrong side of the ruling church power of the day and you may find yourself burned alive. Wash your clothes wrong, anger a neighbor, have land someone in power wanted, lose a child to miscarriage, be present when someone dies-these are all things that have gotten women killed and accused of witchcraft.

What I took most from this book is that while we’ve made progress, we are only one pendulum swing from going backwards.

A story that is far too true in the history of women. Don’t skip this book.

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