What can we learn from Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches?

A Discovery of Witches is a novel that I recently read. Actually, I devoured it (figuratively, of course). The novel centers on the character Diana Bishop, a historian, and a witch by birth. Diana goes to Oxford University to research the history of science. While she is there, she calls a manuscript named Ashmole 782, attracting other creatures in the world, including fellow witches, vampires, and daemons. It turns out that the manuscript had been missing for over a century and that Diana had some special connection to it or else she never would have been able to call it. She also attracts a certain vampire named Matthew Clairmont when she summons a book using her talents as a witch to make it fly into her hand. Matthew enters her life first as another creature who wants the manuscript and then as someone who wants her. I hope that is enough of a teaser for you to call this book to your nightstand, iPad, Kindle, or whatever method you prefer to read a book. I learned of it first from my mother, who knows the author’s mother. For more information on Deborah Harkness, visit her website.

I believe we can learn a couple of lessons from the novel and I am going to share those thoughts with you.

Do not deny who you are.

The first lesson I learned from this novel is you cannot deny who you are. Diana, a witch by birth, spent most of her life denying herself the chance to use her gift. She felt that if she used her gifts in her work as a historian that she would be cheating. She worked doubly hard to achieve what she had until that point in her life. Essentially, she tried to be what she was not – a human. Diana is a witch, born with gifts she was meant to use. If you have special gifts, use them. You were given these gifts for a purpose.

Be true to yourself.

Matthew, a vampire who also did not have a choice about what he became, denied his vampire cravings by not feeding on humans. In this case, I think he made the right choice, even if that choice meant that he would have to work harder to be true to himself than others. He fed on animals rather than humans to have a clear conscience.

Open your mind to new possibilities.

Some of the characters in the novel were closed-minded about new possibilities for relationships among the creatures of the world. Just as humans opposed mixed-race couples until their thoughts evolved, the creatures in this novel feared change. They opposed Diana and Matthew’s relationship because the creatures did not trust one another. Some were simply supercilious toward others of another species. In their history inhabiting this planet, there were times when creatures hurt and killed one another. Some of the creatures held grudges for many years. We learn that we need to forgive and open our mind to new possibilities. We cannot live in the past and cannot blame the innocent for what happened then or in the future among ourselves.

I believe this book could be a good addition to a teacher’s SSR library. It would appeal to young people, especially those who are interested in Twilight. I recommend you read this book and see if you come to the same conclusions. I look forward to your comments.

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