The Witch Door by Elisabeth Ogilvie

Published in 1959
Set in Maine

back of book jacket:
A Season of Love and Fear
Meagan builds a new life for herself on her lovely island after Craig mysteriously leaves. When he returns, she begins to fear him, especially as a threat to her love for Richard.

But Craig is more than a threat. Megan learns that he’s spreading vicious rumors among her neighbors; that he’s lied to her about his past; that he’s connected with subversive groups…and that her very survival depends on the whims of a man she can hardly believe she once loved!

I simply adore Ogilvie’s books. She is the one that sparked my love for Maine. Her Bennett Island books are my favorites. I love the lobster-men and the boats and the salt air. Odd since I don’t like seafood or really even swimming in the ocean! But I am drawn by the lifestyle and the landscape.

In this book Megan’s husband left her 8 yrs. ago while she was still in the hospital after giving birth to their third child. She and the kids went on to make a life. Richard Hendries an old family friend, turned love interest has proposed marriage to her. Her 15 year old son, Chris, loved Richard until he wanted to marry his mother. He hasn’t given up hope his dad will return someday. Megan has foolishly let him believe his dad was lost in the Korean War and he sees him as a hero. Megan was weak where Chris was concerned and let him rule her life and decision making as she didn’t want to upset him. She purchased a summer house on an island in Maine and her and the children had spent the last 7 summers there in idyllic bliss. She promises Richard she will set things straight with Chris while they are on Fairweather Island so they can move ahead with their plans to marry. But before she can do that Craig, her long lost husband, shows up unexpectedly and throws a monkey wrench into the works! He makes no attempt to explain himself and shows no remorse, but uses the kids, especially Chris, to prolong his visit. He seems different, there’s an edge to him that creates fear in Megan. He even creates division among the island people and Megan. Then an old acquaintance from Craig’s past shows up and the whole atmosphere changes and Craig is a whole different person with him there. What do all the solo trips to town and to Mokinoc Island mean? Who is Stella on Mokinoc Island. What secrets does she know that she has to be hushed up and what are Craig and Paul planning to do to her? Will Chris see his father for who he really is? What we do know is Craig is hiding a deadly secret. Can Megan protect her children and find her way back to Richard?

This tale was a little weak for an Ogilvie. Not quite up to par with the others I’ve read. I wanted to smack Megan most of the time and I don’t think she did that great a job of building up suspense. But for me any Ogilvie book is delicious just for her wonderful descriptions of island life. I feel the sea spray, smell the salt air and briefly I am transported to Maine.

Here’s a sample:
All afternoon the sea wind flowed into the house through the outside doors and under the old many-paned sashes propped up on notched sticks. From room to room the inner doors were held back by a variety of doorstops; a splintery lobster-pot buoy with an unknown name on it, tide-borne from some great distance to the outer shore of Fairweather; a stone bristling with quartz crystals, miniature leaning towers; old conch shells with fluted edges and pink linings. The shells had been in the house when Megan bought it from Markie. His great-grand-uncle who had gone whaling in the South Seas had brought them home.

As for the doors themselves, the thumb latches were worn sharp and thin by a century and a half of use and had a way of opening themselves when they were shut; first one would click open and then another, until it seemed as if some mysterious presence were passing through the house, never shutting a door behind it. The doors were painted white, and their panelling formed crosses. 

‘Christian doors they called them’, Markie’s wife said, but Markie said with the grimness of one who has fought to maintain his position for years, ‘Witch doors.’

When she woke up in the morning, a soft damp wind was blowing the curtains into the room, and the sky was the colour of pearl. 

Then she saw the mass of rushing silver below the surface, a school of herring running before the oncoming dory. Now and then single flashing bodies shot off to the sides, but the mass kept together, slipping through the water at incredible speed… She was wholly engrossed in the spectacle below her; she thought she had never seen anything so weirdly beautiful. When the herring carrier came for them, they would be lifted out in a rain of glittering scales; flipping frantically, they would be dumped into the hole to die. But tonight they were swift and radiant, the very essence of life.

Peggy Ann

8 thoughts on “The Witch Door by Elisabeth Ogilvie

  1. Julie, there are 9 Bennett Island books.
    The Tide Trilogy:
    High Tide at Noon 1944
    Storm Tide 1945
    The Ebbing Tide 1947

    The Lover's Trilogy:
    The dawning of the day 1954
    The Seasons Hereafter 1966
    Strawberries in the Sea 1973

    An Answer in the Tide 1978
    The Summer of the Osprey 1987
    The Day Before Winter 1997

    I read them out of order. She also has a 3 part series about Scotland and immigrating to Maine. Jennie About to Be is the first one. check out her bibliography here


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