Author(s): James Morrow
Jennet is the daughter of the Witchfinder of Mercia and East Anglia. Whilst her father roams the countryside with her brother Dunstan in search of heretics, Jennet is left behind to be schooled by her aunt Isobel in the New Philosophy principally expounded by Isaac Newton. But her aunt's style of scientific inquiry soon attracts the attention of the witchfinders. To save her aunt, Jennet travels to Cambridge to seek the help of Newton himself. On the way she meets Dr Barnaby Cavendish and his 'Museum of Wondrous Prodigies', including the Bird-Child of Bath, the Lyme Bay Fish Boy and the Sussex Rat Baby. What they haven't bargained on is being hoodwinked by Newton's great rival Robert Hooke.
Isobel is burned at the stake but in her dying moments, begs Jennet to devote her life to overturning the Parliamentary Witchcraft Act.
This is a huge rollercoaster of a novel as Jennet travels to America and witnesses the Salem witch trials; is abducted by Indians; begins a long-lasting affair with Benjamin Franklin; travels back to England and finally meets the real Newton; is shipwrecked; then ends up back in America where her brother is now the Witchfinder Royal. In a great final showdown between old superstition and new science, Jennet decides to have herself accused of witchcraft in order to disprove its existence.
What makes this novel even more unusual is that Jennet's story is narrated by a book, the Principia Mathematica, making this a hugely original, witty, clever and utterly unique novel. It's very tongue in cheek, as the book engages in a battle of paper-eating insects with the Malleus Maleficarum, the key 'witchfinding' text.