Sunday, October 24, 2021

On tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club: Widdershins (Widdershins, Book 1) by Helen Steadman, narrated by Christine Mackie #audiobook #BookReview #HistoricalFiction @hsteadman1650 @maryanneyarde


The new audio book of Widdershins is narrated brilliantly by talented actor, Christine Mackie, from Downton Abbey, Coronation Street, Wire in the Blood, and so on.  

The first part of a two-part series, Widdershins is inspired by the Newcastle witch trials, where 16 people were hanged. Despite being the largest mass execution of witches on a single day in England, these trials are not widely known about. In August 1650, 15 women and one man were hanged as witches after a Scottish witchfinder found them guilty of consorting with the devil. This notorious man was hired by the Puritan authorities in response to a petition from the Newcastle townsfolk who wanted to be rid of their witches. 

Widdershins is told through the eyes of Jane Chandler, a young woman accused of witchcraft, and John Sharpe, the witchfinder who condemns her to death. Jane Chandler is an apprentice healer. From childhood, she and her mother have used herbs to cure the sick. But Jane soon learns that her sheltered life in a small village is not safe from the troubles of the wider world. From his father’s beatings to his uncle’s raging sermons, John Sharpe is beset by bad fortune. Fighting through personal tragedy, he finds his purpose: to become a witchfinder and save in-nocents from the scourge of witchcraft.

My Review  

This book is the kind that, if you have a physical copy, you don’t want to put down, and if you have the audio copy, you do not want to press pause. I generally stay up far too late reading, and I thought that listening to an audio chapter may help me put the book down, but I found myself reaching for the pause button very slowly, and the next chapter would start before I could pause it, so I had to listen to that one as well, since it had already started.

There are two characters that this novel follows, and I only liked one of them. Jane Chandler is such a lovely young woman, and the kindness of her heart is crystal clear. I absolutely loved her chapters and I found myself checking how long was left until another of hers. The other character, John Sharpe, is arguably the character I dislike most out of all of the books I have ever read, and of all of the villains I have met in other stories. John is a despicable man, and I hated him. I really REALLY hated him.

The historical setting of this book is one that I am not overly familiar with, but I did not find myself lost at any time. The setting has been depicted so clearly I may as well have been watching a movie instead of listening to an audiobook. In particular, I was fascinated with the use of herbs for medicinal purposes. I know that chamomile tea has a calming effect, and peppermint tea can help with digestion, but other than tea, I know little. Jane introduced me to a world of herbs and plants that saved so many lives that would have been lost without the help of nature.

There are some truly awful scenes in this book, and a very large majority of them include John. The narration of this book really brings the book to life, and I couldn’t help but imagine the horrible things that so many women suffered and how awful it must have been to be accused of being a witch.

This book is both chilling and gripping, and I honestly could not stop listening to it. The author has done a masterful job of creating a world that you never, ever, want to imagine visiting, and the narrator has brought this world vividly to life. It was truly wonderful.

Buy this Book (you really should)

Amazon UK 

Amazon US 

Amazon CA 

Amazon AU 

Audible Link







Book Depository 

Dr Helen Steadman

Dr Helen Steadman is a historical novelist. Her first novel, Widdershins and its sequel, Sunwise were inspired by the Newcastle witch trials. Her third novel, The Running Wolf was inspired by a group of Lutheran swordmakers who defected from Germany to England in 1687.

Despite the Newcastle witch trials being the largest mass execution of witches on a single day in England, they are not widely known about. Helen is particularly interested in revealing hid-den histories and she is a thorough researcher who goes to great lengths in pursuit of historical accuracy. To get under the skin of the cunning women in Widdershins and Sunwise, Helen trained in herbalism and learned how to identify, grow and harvest plants and then made herbal medicines from bark, seeds, flowers and berries.

The Running Wolf is the story of a group of master swordmakers who left Solingen, Germany and moved to Shotley Bridge, England in 1687. As well as carrying out in-depth archive re-search and visiting forges in Solingen to bring her story to life, Helen also undertook black-smith training, which culminated in making her own sword. During her archive research, Helen uncovered a lot of new material and she published her findings in the Northern History journal.

Helen is now working on her fourth novel.

Social Media Links

Christine Mackie has worked extensively in TV over the last thirty years in well-known TV series such as Downton Abbey, Wire in the Blood, Coronation Street, French & Saunders and The Grand. Theatre work includes numerous productions in new writing as well as classics, such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Comedy of Errors, Richard III, An Inspector Calls, and the Railway Children. In a recent all women version of Whisky Galore, Christine played three men, three women and a Red Setter dog! 

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Tour Schedule


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