The people in Güde’s village are starving. 1507 is the second year of no harvest and the people have grown thin, listless, and hungry. When a visiting friar arrives and claims he has a solution, the people are overjoyed. Güde is certain that he will find this witch, who must be in another town for all of her neighbors are good, kind-hearted Christians, and restore prosperity to her small village. Then perhaps she will regain the respect of her daughter-in-law, Irmeltrud, and be at peace in her son’s home. She doesn’t realize that Irmeltrud will seize at anything to get rid of her, and worse, that she isn’t even sure she can deny those accusations.
The Witch’s Trinity is a well-imagined tale of late medieval Germany, struggling under the burden of famine. I particularly liked the atmosphere which pervaded the book. There is a constant feeling of dread in the little village on the edge of the woods and it’s easy to see how the population could be pushed into madness. The reader can feel the hunger, suspicion, and desperation that takes the place of common sense and affection. We already know what the friar’s arrival will bring, but that doesn’t take away from this sense of unease. Interspersed are memories of happier times, when Güde was a girl and in love and did not know what hunger really was. Longing for that time is clear as day and also helps us to understand the great changes that have taken place.
I also thought the angle this book took on witchcraft was interesting. Güde doesn’t know if she has signed her soul over to the devil or not. She doesn’t know if the things she sees are in the mind of an old woman or actual visions. When she is convicted of witchcraft, she is very confused. In most books, the accused is always innocent and there is rarely any supernatural element. This perspective is something new and provided for a fresh, more unpredictable read. It’s left up to the reader to decide, as the novel goes on, whether Güde is seeing truth or whether her aging mind is providing her with hallucinations.
This is a solid work of historical fiction. It provides an engaging, unusual view into a world that no longer exists, and has a gripping story and varied, sympathetic characters. I would recommend it.