A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials

by Ann Rinaldi

Hardcover, 1992



Local notes

Fic Rin



Gulliver Books (1992), Edition: 1st, 272 pages


While waiting for a church meeting in 1706, Susanna English, daughter of a wealthy Salem merchant, recalls the malice, fear, and accusations of witchcraft that tore her village apart in 1692.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

272 p.; 5.75 inches



User reviews

LibraryThing member yourotherleft
A Break With Charity is Rinaldi's mostly imagined account of Susanna English, teenage daughter of parents John and Mary actual people who were accused in the Salem Witch Trials. Susanna is fourteen and though she deeply desires to mingle with other girls of her age group in Salem finds herself to
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be an outcast due to her family's relative affluence and her father's rejection of the Puritan church. Her curiosity about the other girls' activities brings her into the company of the Reverend Parris's slave, Tituba, and eventually embroils her in the hysteria of the witch trials. Though the younger Ann Putnam herself tells Susanna that the witchcraft accusations are scam at the start, she forbids Susanna to tell anyone claiming that she will call out on her parents. As Susanna struggles with how to deal with this information, the consequences of her silence grow and grow until the "afflicted" girls begin to believe their own lies and eventually break charity and accuse her parents despite Susanna's silence.

Through Susanna's eyes, Rinaldi examines the Salem Witch Trials inside and out. She reveals to us the boredom and powerlessness felt by teenage Puritan girls, both of which made the chaos caused by the witch trials and the attention paid them by high-ranking Puritans all that much more alluring. Rinaldi explores the weaknesses of Puritan society and a persistant feeling of religious righteousness and judgement, both of which allowed the hysteria of the witch trials to explode to ridiculous proportions causing immense loss of innocent life. Through Susanna's narrative, Rinaldi provides practically just enough context to whet reader's appetites for additional writings on the Salem Witch Trials and helpfully encloses a list of her references and additional reading on the subject. Rinaldi's strong grasp of history and her female narrators who are never perfect but are on their way to finding the right path make for excellent reading experiences for young adults that encourage a healthy interest in history.
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LibraryThing member coffee.is.yum
What a great historical novel about the Salem Witch Trials. Rinaldi gives the readers the insightful perspective through a protagonist who has witnessed the Salem Witch Trials from the very beignning--from the meetings of the Circle to the confession of Ann Putnam followed years after everything is
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put to rest.

The character development was wonderfully done with all the character included in the story, and all the major events regarding the history of the Salem Witch Trials (and even minor ones) are included. It was interesting to see the group of girls have a reason behind their "sickness" of calling out wiches rather than just making the reader speculate and come up with his/her own opinion of the story. Instead, we get a behind-the-scenes account with the protagonist as Ann Putnam reveals her sinister motivations.

Overall, an interesting read.
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LibraryThing member travenwill
This book is based on the Salem Witch Trials, seen through the eyes of a fictional girl. Susannah is a young girl who wants to be a part of the in crowd that meets in Titubah's kitchen. She eventually sees that things are not as innocent as they seem and finds herself immersed in a scandal that
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brings about disastrous results. This book expertly weaves non-fiction with fiction.
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LibraryThing member ptnguyen
Target audience: Ages 11 and up

Susanna English desperately yearns to join the circle of girls who meet weekly at the parsonage. However, Susanna is unaware that these girls's mission is to send countless innocent people to imprisonment and execution through false accusations of witchcraft. These
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teeangers are driven by revenge-and by a wish to escape the boredom of church and Bible reading. Historically based on the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts in 1692, Susanna faces a painful choice--should she keep quiet or "break charity" within the group--and risk having her own family members named as witches. As the fervor escalates, so does Susanna's guilt and sorrow.

Both teenages and adults will be mesmerized by this flawless and striking tale of the Salem Witch Trials. The story is fresh because the protagonist is neither a member of the circle nor one of the accused. Rinaldi offers an ever-fascinating episode of one of American's most controversial period with acute accuracy and trepidation of those who were accused.
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LibraryThing member CozyLover
The first Rinaldi book I ever read, picked up while on a day trip to Salem. She did such a good job with the story, making her version of the Witch hysteria entirely plausible, that I become hooked on her as an author.
LibraryThing member SadieReads
"A Break with Charity" is an historical novel that takes place during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. It begins in 1706 with Susanna English returning to Salem to hear the apologies of Ann Putnam, one of the girls foremost responsible for the trials. The majority of the book is Elizabeth's
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reflection on the events surrounding the trials, starting with the forming of a girls' circle in the reverend's house. In the beginning, Elizabeth desperately wanted to be part of the girls' circle. However, their shunning her turns out to be somewhat of a blessing when the girls take to falsely accusing people in the community whom Ann and her mother don't like of being witches. Although Elizabeth wants to tell her parents and the elders of Salem what she knows about the girls, she is fearful of Ann's threats to name her parents as witches next. As the community is torn apart by the trials which begin leading to hangings, will Elizabeth build up the courage to tell what she knows and try to put a stop to the injustice?

This is a great novel for high school sophomores and juniors. It would be especially appropriate for American History classes and as an alternative or companion to The Crucible. Two of the things I truly appreciated about it were the bibliography and the author's note at the end. The bibliography gave full citations of 11 references the author, Ann Rinaldi, used as research for her story, several of which were primary documents. The author's note explains the inspiration for the story and shows that many of the characters are true historical figures. The author is careful to relate exactly what is fiction and what is fact. The only complaint I would have about he book is that the author tried to use Puritan language for some of the dialogue and it did not sound authentic. However, I did enjoy this story and the look it gave me into the perplexing history of the Salem Witch Trials.
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LibraryThing member countrylife
Between trips to the library, I grabbed this title off a daughter’s shelf. Short and young adult, it was a quick read, but a convincing imagining of a story about the Salem witch trials. The last sentence of the copy on my cover says it well: “She can keep quiet and let the witch-hunt panic
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continue, or she can “break charity” with the group – and risk having her family named as witches.”

A nicely done YA historical fiction.
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½ (169 ratings; 3.8)
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