They are three Eastwood sisters. Somewhere in North America, they were raised by an alcoholic and violent father. But also by a grandmother, Mama Mags, who, in terms of witchcraft, seemed to know a lot about it. The two older sisters fled the tyrannical father: in New Salem, Agnès Amarante, accidentally pregnant, works in a cotton mill, and Béatrice Belladone works as a librarian. Years later, the youngest, James Genièvre, fled in turn. And it was on the 1893 equinox that, driven by a strange attraction, they found themselves without having wanted to, apparently by chance, in the streets of New Salem. An electric encounter that gives rise to a mysterious, incomprehensible, frightening phenomenon.
But everyday life is also frightening. This daily life is that of the end of the nineteenth century, where women did not yet have the right to vote and were most often over-exploited. A daily life where we still hunt witches, presumed or real. Real, because the Eastwood sisters, and a few other women with them, do have certain powers and certain knowledge that are just waiting to be developed and shared. The whole trick of Alix E. Harrow is to merge the fight for the freedom of the suffragettes and that of the witches in the making. We guess it very quickly: on this excellent idea, the novel will make amusing parallels and will describe the female struggles in a new light.
We sense it, we guess it, we will discover it: the witch hunt is the hunt for freedom, emancipation, tolerance, but also knowledge. Burning so-called witches is also burning books: pyres and burnings, same fight. Nice idea on the part of Alix E. Harrow to compare the ways of witchcraft to the voices of the suffragettes, and to make the famous Black Tower, a magic threshold reputed to open towards the Way of Avalon, much more a figured passage than real: the famous door is above all a gigantic library, whose books lead further than many topographies.
” Nothing is lost that cannot be found. Words Mags had taught them among a hundred other songs and nursery rhymes. Absurd, stupid, perfectly insane in the great web of time. Unless they are not. Unless the nursery rhymes conceal verses and ways, a power transmitted in secret from mother to daughter, like swords disguised as knitting needles. »
In this year 1893 imagined by Alix E. Harrowthe feminization of references (Charlotte Perrault for Charles Perraultthe Grimm Sisters for the Brothers Grimm ) supports the idea of a secret stream (corresponding to secret ways, such as the famous Underground Railroad) of literature through which, in innocuous forms, women have long passed on the secrets of magic. A magic which – because the author avoids the trap of Manichaeism – finds in the world a male counterpart, as in this mysterious Mr. Lee who supported the workers’ struggles in Chicago with very unconventional methods, and who, just like the director of the library where Bella works, will provide the Eastwood sisters with more than appreciable support. Just like the black journalist Cléo, from the New Babel district, or many other women of color to whom magic is not entirely foreign either.
” A familiar is not a spell or a pet. It is witchcraft itself that wears an animal skin. »
The equality of men and women, freedom, burnings, censorship, the hatred of knowledge, of intelligence, of freedom: a vast program and severe difficulties in a puritanical and conservative era where the class struggle just beginning and where women are still far from having the necessary consideration. Witchcraft, which appears to some as a formidable danger, is above all for women a means of defense and an engine of social progress. But the fight will be long and the magic is not always only on the good side. Bad, abominable surprises soon point the tip of their noses, if not their forked tails. And we know how much the devil likes to hide under the aspects of the most assertive right-thinking.
” Witches of all countries, unite! »
Real or imaginary betrayals, leaks and cover-ups, hunts and kidnappings, fights, conspiracies, sacrifices, dramas, escapes. Over the course of five parts of decreasing length – “The Crazy Sisters”, “Hand in Hand”, “Burnt and Tied”, What is Lost”, “What is Found” – the story carries its readership over the voices and the ways which are the paths and the means of those who are not listened to, the voices of those who are excluded from the ballot box, excluded from the world, and who are determined to show that they will henceforth have to be reckoned with.
“JI don’t believe at all that we burned bloodlines of witches… I believe that we burned knowledge. Books, and the women who wrote them. I think… I think we’ve been robbed of our verses and our ways, and only the will is left. »
As the ” Golden Age ” of Fabrice Collinpublished simultaneously in the same collection, “ The time of the witches will not fail, with the idyll between one of the sisters and the young Cléo, to interest lovers of lesbian romance. After racism, feminism and homosexuality, the author also takes care to add, on the last part of the novel, in chapter thirty-six, the trans theme with a person who is not really of the desired sex. That this last element arrives in a completely artificial way does not matter: what matters obviously, much more than the search for a romantic balance, is to ensure that all the boxes of political correctness have been checked. one after the other and that the readers, once the book is finished, will be fully aware of it. A little too conscious, alas, for those who still know how to tell the difference between intrigue and cliché and who prefer literature to contemporary catechism. It will therefore be necessary to pass on the ostentatious good-thinking and on these agreed elements to appreciate a novel which often tries not to do too much. It is necessary to recognize thatAlix E. Harrow has real know-how in this area and that it would have achieved its objective perfectly if this ” time of the witches had been shorter. With more than six hundred pages in fine print, that is to say one hundred and fifty more than ” The Ten Thousand Gates of January “, which was however much larger and more ambitious, ” The Time of the Witches “, concentrated on a place and on a short interval of time, does not always manage to avoid lengths, nor repetitions.
” The crowd quickly moves away from the women in white with shrill screams. There is a strange note in their cries, fear but also wonder. Witchcraft is a shameful little thing, practiced in kitchens, bedrooms and boarding houses, more or less secret. But here it appears in broad daylight, bringing white capes out of nowhere. Juniper feels things changing around her, borders becoming permeable. She sees eyes – especially young women – where an eager fascination shines. Juniper guesses that it is those who want, who desire, who yearn; those who rebel against the stories they have been made to swallow and dream of hearing better ones. »
If it appears less convincing than “Les Ten Thousand Gates of January », « The Time of the Witches », with the limits indicated above, remains a great adventure. Endearing, singular characters, a magic that constantly emerges and often reveals itself, frequent surprises, all served by a fluid and simple writing but rich and dense enough to make many atmospheres credible. A story of struggle and hope, a story rich in twists and turns, a profusion of images that would lend themselves to a beautiful cinematographic transposition.
Title : The Time of the Witches (The Once and Future Witches2020)
Author : Alix E. Harrow
English (United States) translation: Thibaud Eliroff
Blanket : Pauline Orlieb
Collection : The Imaginary Ray
Website : novel page (publisher website)
Size (in cm): 15×23
Legal Deposit : October 2022
Price: 28 €
The Imaginary Ray on the Yozone:
“The Ten Thousand Gates of January” by Alix E. Harrow
“Golden Age” by Fabrice Colin
“Destination Outlands”, by Robert Heinlein
We wish to thank the author of this article for this remarkable content
YOZONE: Time of the Witches (The)
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