Book info

Conjure Wife (1993)

Conjure Wife (1993)
Author
Rating
3.84 of 5 Votes: 4
ISBN
0899684351 (ISBN13: 9780899684352)
languge
English
publisher
buccaneer books
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Conjure Wife (1993)
Conjure Wife (1993)

About book: Considered a modern horror story for it's time, Conjure Wife reinvents the 'witch' as well educated women far removed from the green-skinned, hag of our collective imagination and allows her story to unfold on a modern university campus. The action begins fairly early in the book when Norman Saylor, a professor of ethnology, discovers his wife Tansy has put his research into "Negro Conjure Magic" into practice for the sake of protecting him from other spell casting faculty wives who wish to further their own husbands careers and with that their own social standing.Being a rational man of science Norman has only an academic interest in the subject of magic and superstition and he forces Tansy to cease all her workings and to burn all her charms which mostly take the form of mojo bags (called hands in the book)--with the exception of her diary which contains her formulas for How to Make Wishes Work, How To Get and Guard, to Spell and to Hex. No sooner does Norman burn the last charm hidden in his pocket watch, which Tansy either purposely or accidentally forgot was there, do things start to fall apart. A former student accuses Norman of railroading him into failing out of school and threatens him with a gun, his student-secretary accuses him of having seduced her, and he is passed over for a promotion that had seemed guaranteed.Norman then begins to have more than his fair share of small accidents such as cutting himself while shaving, stepping on carpet tacks, cutting his hand with a letter opener, etc... and he begins to imagine that he senses a dark presence which exploits his fear of trucks. A bad situation becomes even worse when Tansy takes his curse upon herself and he is forced to put aside his disbelief and use witchcraft to save not only his wife's soul, but her body as well in an delightfully unexpected twist reminiscent of The Skeleton Key (2005).Although Conjure Wife is a horror novel, it's subject matter is treated seriously. The witches are portrayed as 'normal' women with clearly understandable motivations. The witchcraft portrayed in the novel is derived from Southern Folk Magic (Hoodoo). Very early in the book Norman discovers Tansy's boxes of silver dimes, lodestones, and several bottles of graveyard dirt, and squares of flannel for making her 'hands'. The practices portrayed in this work are authentic, however the author did little to describe the actual use of these items within the story, save for a few workings. Most of the action is internal as Norman attempts to convince himself that the events occurring around him are coincidental as slowly begins to believe that magic is real and all women are witches!The book has spawned three movie adaptations Burn, Witch Burn (1962); Weird Woman (1944); and Witch's Brew(1980). Although each movie is based on this novel, each one has changed it's portrayal how witchcraft (not Wicca) is practiced. None of the movies portrays witchcraft as it is actually practiced, however neither does all the practices in Conjure Wife reflect actual practices.Overall I found it a very enjoyable read that was over too quickly.

Conjure Wife is a 1943 horror novel by master fantasist Fritz Leiber, who is best known for his excellent FAFHRD AND THE GRAY MOUSER stories. While Conjure Wife is usually labeled as horror, the recently released trade paperback edition from Orb is marketed as "the classic of urban fantasy" — maybe to latch on to the recent surge in popularity of that sub-genre? Regardless of which genre it's placed in, Conjure Wife is an excellent novel that definitely deserved a re-release.Norman Saylor is a sociology professor at the small — and as far as I can tell, entirely fictional — college of Hempnell. Early on in the novel, Saylor discovers that his wife Tansy has been attempting to practice magic. Saylor, a very rational and cerebral man, attempts to convince Tansy that magic isn't real, but after she destroys all the protective magical artifacts hidden around their house, Saylor's life suddenly takes a turn for the worse: old and new enemies appear, small accidents start to happen, his tenure at the college suddenly is in danger...As this subtly terrifying story progresses, Conjure Wife does an excellent job at contrasting the different personalities of the characters. Saylor is supremely rational and always tries to find a logical explanation for even the most bizarre situations and actions. His wife Tansy is a more intuitive and passionate soul. Saylor's colleagues, and their wives, are all fully realized characters. Throughout private meetings, bridge games, lectures, and the inevitable conflicts, Fritz Leiber does an amazing job making these people feel realistic and real. This novel, barely 220 pages long, has a very high signal-to-noise ratio — an extremely enjoyable and fast read that will reveal more details upon re-reading.For a novel written more than 60 years ago, Conjure Wife isn't nearly as dated as it could be. Aside from the distinct fact that the entire teaching staff is male, and a few other societal values that have changed, this novel could be set in any small college today. More proof of the timeless adaptability of this story: the three movies that were based on this novel were made in 1944, 1962 and 1980 — and I could easily see a 4th movie, set in the present day.For newcomers to Fritz Leiber, I would still recommend FAFHRD AND THE GRAY MOUSER first, but Conjure Wife is an excellent standalone novel — and a great book to curl up with on Halloween!This review is also published at www.fantasyliterature.com - come visit!
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Reviews
B.R. Sanders
Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife is a strange little book.It is expertly written, and it is also utterly misogynist. Conjure Wife, written in 1943, is generally well-regarded and pointed to as an early and promising example of horror and urban fantasy. Some go so far as to call it a classic. Three films have been made using it as a starting point.But, were anyone to ask me (and obviously no one did as this book review, like all of my book reviews, is unsolicited and will likely disappear, unread, int
Stephen
3.0 to 3.5 stars. This was a fun, fast read with a well written (it is Fritz Leiber after all) and well paced plot that kept me engaged until the very end. Two things kept me from giving this story a four star rating. First, the main character, Norman Saylor, was one of those characters that had me screaming at the book things like "what are you, an idiot" by the way he reacts to the plot revelations. For a while you understand it, but when it goes on for as long as it does, it got a bit tedious. It reminded me of the feeling you get watching a horror movie when the girl is "running" from the psychopathic killer who is "walking" after her but she keeps tripping and falling down so he can catch up and filet her. The second thing that kind of bugged me was the ending was a little too unrealistic for me. I know it is often hard to have a "realistic" ending in a fantasy/horror novel, but this one strained even my very willing suspension of disbelief. Those two gripes aside, I did really enjoy the novel and it kept my interest enough that I read it basically cover to cover in one sitting.
Paulo "paper books always" Carvalho
In my opinion this must have been a good novel at the time it was written. I imagined it had received good critics. But unfortunally reading it today I didn't felt connected to it. First of all I think Leiber is an excelent writer. No doubt about it. But the plot suffered for what I call TimeLife. Maybe there is a term for it but I do not know it. My thoughts are these. Reading today in 2013, with hundreds of novels of urban fantasy avaiable this book fails to achieved it's goal. It's like most books written in the Gothic. Maybe they were good in those days but we are different. The example I give is MacGyver. I really enjoy it. I still can watch it and like it. Or Knight Rider or something from those days in the 80's. But most people born after those tv's shows had long gone find them tedious when they have so much to see with action, adventure, life and so on.Maybe I read "Conjure Wife" in the wrong time of my life. I enjoy a couple of gothic novels but others I find it boring that I can't even get to the middle of it. Now for the book itself.The protagonist is Norman Saylor, a professor of sociology in a College who starts wondering how did it get his sucess and his loveable wife (Tansy). One day he discovers that she is a practicioner of witchcraft and after a argument he says she must stop using that that she thinks is magic (which he doesn't believe).After that problem solved several others appear almost at the same time with the culmination of his wife's disappearing. After this he tries to find rationality behind the witchcraft and even conjuring it.Of course this was written in the 40's where how ideals were different from today. Men were sexist and thought of themselves the stronger gender and women were behind each spouse with devotion. Since this was written from Norman perspective he is a typical guy from the 40's. It's like saying Lovecraft was racist. Another times, another beliefs people. We can't judge them.The premise behind the book it's simple. Behind each man is a woman but in this case behind each man is a powerful witch woman behind always fighting for the companions. And this is why woman were always relegated, persecuted and even killed. Because Men fear Women. Either way. This is not the birth for Urban Fantasy but I can see why it's labelled that way. This is a psychological literature with mild influences of horror. Neither was it scary or had gore in it.Why should you read?Don't expect what the covers says but as I said before it's a Leiber book so if you like other things he wrote you will enjoy this one.
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