"Hex" by Jenni Fagan is a powerful and compelling short novel that I am sure will linger in my memory. It's usual to approach a book with a fairly clear idea of what to expect, at least in outline, and that's partly because most books can be categorised fairly readily. That's not a criticism: categorisation can help ensure the matchmaking process between reader and reading matter goes smoothly. But when a book comes along that defies categorisation it can make you sit up and take notice. If you really want to try to think about "Hex" by Jenni Fagan in the way you might think about most books, then it's a rather intriguing mix of historical fiction, biography, supernatural horror, science fiction, mystery and more.
Perhaps the best approach is simply to forget about where "Hex" stands in relation to other books and take it on its own merits, which are considerable. You get a good sense of what the book is about from the publisher's description of it:
"It's the 4th of December 1591. On this, the last night of her life, in a prison cell several floors below Edinburgh’s High Street, convicted witch Geillis Duncan receives a mysterious visitor – Iris, who says she comes from a future where women are still persecuted for who they are and what they believe. As the hours pass and dawn approaches, Geillis recounts the circumstances of her arrest, brutal torture, confession and trial, while Iris offers support, solace – and the tantalising prospect of escape. Hex is a visceral depiction of what happens when a society is consumed by fear and superstition, exploring how the terrible force of a king’s violent crusade against ordinary women can still be felt, right up to the present day."
I've already described "Hex" as compelling; and it certainly is. It's one of those books that demand your attention, that take a grip on you as a reader and refuse to let go until you reach the acknowledgements at the end. It's also unremittingly dark, verging on grim: and for this - male - reviewer it was also an uncomfortable read in places. Which is rather the point. The extreme mistreatment of suspected (mainly female) witches in Scotland was an obvious abomination. But how far have things really changed in the way women are treated in society over the last four centuries? Not far enough, and in places (for example on Twitter) not very far at all.