Book Highlight: The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne

book highlight the book of gothel mary mcmyne
the book of gothel mary mcmyne

Title: The Book of Gothel

Author: Mary McMyne

Publisher: Redhook

Publication Date: July 26, 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction

Germany, 1156. With her strange black eyes and even stranger fainting spells, young Haelewise has never quite fit in. Shunned by her village, her only solace lies in the stories her mother tells of child-stealing witches, of princes in wolf-skins, and of an ancient tower cloaked in mist, where women will find shelter if they are brave enough to seek it.

When her mother dies, Haelewise is left unmoored. With nothing left for her in her village, she sets out to find the legendary tower her mother spoke of—a place called Gothel, where she meets a wise woman willing to take Haelewise under her wing. There, she discovers that magic is found not only in the realm of fairy tales.

But Haelewise is not the only woman to seek refuge at Gothel. It’s also a haven for a girl named Rika, who carries with her a secret the church strives to keep hidden. A secret that reveals a dark world of ancient spells and murderous nobles, behind the world Haelewise has always known.

Why This Book

The Book of Gothel is less a fairy tale retelling and more historical fiction, telling the life of Haelewise, who eventually becomes known as Mother Gothel. This is her story from childhood to that point, detailing all the things she had to deal with practicing non-Christian rites and having a touch of magic. She’s essentially forced out of her home, but her journey is far from over. The Book of Gothel is full of strong, courageous women, women who have to support each other because no one else will, women who have to take their own lives into their hands just to survive. I found them to be brave in their own ways, from Haelewise who will do anything to find a life for herself despite all the pitfalls thrown in her way, to the women who seek out the tower to terminate pregnancies they cannot have. This is a story of women fighting to make their own choices, and how brave they have to be in that fight.


My review: “She’s quite strong-willed and has a strong sense of duty. Though she’s also driven by a mysterious voice, so it was sometimes hard to tell if she was just following orders or really felt she needed to do something. The dangers she puts herself into, though, really reveals how quick thinking and brave she is”

Fantasy Book Critic said “Throughout this very feminist sequence of events, I came across different kinds of women – those who believed that they needed a man to provide for them, those that used the presence of a man in their lives as a veil, those who believed the world of men was dangerous, and those who worked alongside men to achieve their goals. They all had one thing in common – they refused to let the men push them around”

Becky’s Book Blog said “McMyne takes the story of Haelewise, Mother Gothel, and tell the story of a woman who was forced to become a villain to protect those she loved. She brilliantly brings to light the plight of women throughout history, how they were limited in their roles, forced to stay within the roles society expected of them, and if they strayed even a little, were seen as different, cursed, evil, thanks in large part to the Church”

The Book and the Beauty Blog gave this 2 stars, saying “As for the characters, I initially really liked them but the growth and depth simply wasn’t there. I didn’t feel that Haelewise really changed as the story went on, except to maybe become more annoying”

Realms of My Mind gave this 4 stars, saying “She is constantly torn between patience and skepticism in her search for truth. Haelwise understands that some things take time, but at a certain point, she also decides that nothing will happen unless she takes matters into her own hands. She’s a character constantly trying to follow the rules of others or society, but also willing to toss those rules out the window if they are working against her”

A Literary Escape gave this 4.5 stars, saying “This charge of secrecy bands women together to form a silent, cohesive unit that works against questionable decisions made by men. It also provides a sisterhood of sorts for these women. But the importance of women supporting women in a man’s world is broader than this clandestine sisterhood. It crosses into the realm of motherhood. This powerful topic explores a woman’s reluctance or desire to be a mother and how that transcends and affects all other choices

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | IndieBound | Powell’s | Target | Walmart | Waterstones (UK) | Booktopia (Australia) | imusic of Denmark | Books-A-Million | Flipkart (India) | Kobo | Audible | Google Books | Apple Books | Thrift Books | Book Depository | Abe Books | Audiobooks | Blackwell’s (UK) | Cavalier House Books | | Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe | Mysterious Galaxy | Epilogue | Nowhere Bookshop | Greenlight Bookstore | One More Page Books

Check out all the other books featured this month on The Curated Bookshelf.

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