Kathryn Nuernberger writes about witches and witch trials as her area of expertise and, in The Witch of Eye, brings all her knowledge to connect her feelings and events in her life to the witches of the past. In a series of brief chapters, Nuernberger moves from the Bamberg witch trials to marriage to the North Berwick trials to botany and more—including the infamous Witch of Eye herself, whose star chart for the King of England led her to being accused of treason.
This collection doesn’t focus on the historical details Nuernberger writes about in her other books. Instead, The Witch of Eye is a meander through Nuernberger’s brain. Almost every chapter is named for a historical woman accused of (and usually executed for) witchcraft. A few details from that woman’s life will then be connected to something going on in Nuernberger’s life. Nuernberger’s fascination with healing plants, for example, will be linked with an accused woman who served as her village’s midwife and healer before the community turned on her. Or Nuernberger’s ambivalence about weddings and her sometimes rocky relationship with her own husband will be blended into a very brief retelling of James I’s marriage to Anne of Denmark and the North Berwick trials.
Readers who can follow Nuernberger’s trains of thought will be rewarded with plenty of food for thought about what it means to be a person out of step with their society and who asks questions that make people uncomfortable. In fact, Nuernberger’s collection reminds me of a witchy version of Terry Tempest Williams, another woman known for her keenly observant eye and affinity with the natural world. The Witch of Eye is a book to dip into, not race through. Each meditative chapter should be savored before moving on to the next.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, for review consideration.