A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES

Deborah Harkness

In a sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches became the "it" book of early 2011, bringing Deborah Harkness into the spotlight and galvanizing fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and the descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript deep in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Harkness has created a universe to rival those of Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Kostova, and she adds a scholar’s depth to this riveting story of magic and suspense.

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In a sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches became the "it" book of early 2011, bringing Deborah Harkness into the spotlight and galvanizing fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and the descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript deep in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Harkness has created a universe to rival those of Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Kostova, and she adds a scholar’s depth to this riveting story of magic and suspense. And the story continues in Book Two, Shadow of Night.

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  • Penguin
  • Paperback
  • December 2011
  • 592 Pages
  • 9780143119685

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About Deborah Harkness

Deborah Harkness is a scholar and writer specializing in the history of science and medicine. She has received numerous awards, including Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships. Currently a professor of history at the University of Southern California, her most recent academic publication is The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution. This is her first novel.

Praise

"A wonderfully imaginative grown-up fantasy with all the magic of Harry Potter and Twilight."People

"Intelligent and off-the-wall, it will be irresistible to Twilight fans."The Sunday Times

"A bubbling cauldron of illicit desire…all the ingredients for an assured saga that blends romance with fantasy."Daily Mail

"An inventive addition to the supernatural craze… Historian Harkness’s racy paranormal romance has exciting amounts of spells, kisses and battles, and is recounted with enchanting, page-turning panache."Marie Claire

Discussion Questions

Diana’s mother says that fear is “the strongest force on earth” (p.5). What does she mean? Do you agree?

Early in the novel, Harkness describes the typical personalities and physical traits of daemons, witches, and vampires. If you could be any one of these beings, which would you choose and why?

Who is the Congregation? Is it a force for good or a force for evil?

What happened to Diana’s parents? What were they trying to hide?

Diana studies alchemy, which she defines as a type of “science with magic” (p. 73) used to explore and understand unexplained phenomena. Do you use astrology, fortune-telling, or ESP to provide a deeper understanding of events in your own life?

Why is Diana and Matthew’s love forbidden? Have you ever loved someone whom your family or friends thought was inappropriate? How did their reaction influence your feelings?

Most of the book is told from Diana’s perspective, yet a few chapters are written in the third person. Why? What feature or purpose unites those chapters?

Diana and Matthew travel back to the sixteenth century. If you had the power to time walk, as she does, what period in history would you visit?

In chapter 31, Diana remembers the bedtime story her mother told her as a child. In what ways does that story foreshadow the events of Diana’s life?

Harkness presents the use of witchcraft not only as an otherworldly ability but also as a part of everyday life; for example, Diana uses a spell to fix her washing machine. Which example of the novel’s blending of the magical with the mundane did you find most entertaining or creative? If you could use magic in your daily life, what would you use it for?

Look at the last page of the book. What is the significance of the blood and mercury? What is the reason behind the sense of relief felt in the house? What does the last sentence of the book mean?