The Witch in the Well

The Witch in the Well

by Camilla Bruce

4 out of 5

Once upon a time, the townspeople of F -. did something bad . . .

Local schoolteacher Catherine Evans has made writing the definitive account of what happened when Ilsbeth Clark drowned in the well her life's work.

Some don't want the past raked up, but Catherine is determined to shine a light upon that shameful event. Because Ilsbeth was an innocent, shunned and ostracized by rumour-mongers and ill-wishers, and someone has to speak up for her. And who better than Catherine, who has herself felt the sting and hurt of such whisperings?

And then a childhood friend returns to F -. Elena is a successful author who's earned a certain celebrity. Now in search of a new subject, she announces her intention to write a book about the long-dead woman.

And Elena has everything Catherine has not. A platform. And connections. And no one seems to care that this book will be pure speculation, tainting Ilsbeth's memory. Catherine is left with no option but to blunt her rival's pen ...

Before summer is over, one woman will be dead and the other accused of murder.
But is she guilty, or are there other forces at work? And who was Ilsbeth Clark, really?
An innocent? A witch? Or something else entirely?

Elena and Cathy were childhood friend, but haven't spoken in years. When Elena returns to the village, to write a book about the local witch - one woman ends up dead, and the other accused of murder.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Our two main narrators are Elena, a Londoner who is a media darling after bringing out a best-selling book. She used to visit the village where her uncle kept a house, every summer as a child, but hasn't been back in years.
After her uncle passes away, Elena agrees to start sorting through his things at the house, but she'll use the peace and quiet to write the sequel that her editor is hounding her for.
She find more than she bargained for, when the spirit of the witch in the well takes a shining to her.
She is also going to be killed.

Cathy is from the village, just like her family before her. She's prickly, just as quick to take offence, as she is to give it. She's always been this way and she's struggled to have any friends.
This all changed when Elena and her sister starting spending their summers in the village. Cathy became obsessed with them, and was insulted when Elena chose more glamorous ways to spend her summer when they were teenagers.
Cathy can hold a grudge better than anyone else, and the hadn't talked in years.
In the meantime, Cathy had started work on a book about Ilsbeth the local witch. And she is not impressed when Elena starts to encroach on her territory.

(There is a third narrator - Ilsbeth the witch - shh.)

This is the third book I've read by Camilla Bruce - I like how they weave together fantasy and reality. It's always slow-building, keeping you guessing throughout what the truth might be.
The two previous books focused more on the question of is the fantasy element real, of a figment of imagination.
I found this book made it clear the fantastical element is real and the basis of the whole story. But it still keeps you guessing what happens to Elena, and what Cathy's part is.

It also tells you straight away that Elena is dead, which makes it bittersweet when you're getting to know the character, because you know what is going to happen.

I thought the characters were both very interesting.
Elena starts as a very shiny, influencer type person. She wrote a best-selling non-fiction SOUL book, and has writer's block on the sequel. 
Even when she's alone at her uncle's house, even in her private thoughts, it comes across as pretty gaudy and SOUL is always in statement capitals.
She's not entirely likeable, but she's got a good heart, which starts to show through.

Cathy is the opposite. She is dark and twisty, but she doesn't think she is. She's completely awful throughout the book, and thinks sharing all of her dealing with Elena on a blog with help resolve some of the anger the villagers feel towards her.
She associates strongly with Ilsbeth the witch, who was also falsely accused, and suffered at the hands of the villagers.
Cathy does not improve, she has no character growth, but I still found it fascinating to follow as the truth is slowly unveiled.

This was such an interesting read for me, although I don't think it's for everyone!


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