"Dark Sister" is not your ordinary novel about witchcraft. When Maggie, a housewife and mother of two children, and Alex and archeologist, move into a new home, Maggie longs to uncover and use the old fireplace in the house, so Alex pries away its boarded covering to expose the long unused fireplace. While a chimney sweep is cleaning the chimney, he finds a diary hidden inside. Maggie claims the diary and begins to read the over 100 year old book. She discovers that the author is "Bella". She first suspects that Bells was simply an herbalist, but quickly discovers that she was a witch who lived in the house over a hundred years before.
Bound by her husband's lack of respect for her and her dreams [he forbids her to return to school to study psychology, wanting her to be a "proper mother], and the duties of mothering, Maggie searches for her identity by reading the diary and learning more about the remedies and potions described within.
Unable to find all of the herbs mentioned, or to understand the old English words for some of them, she engages the help of a local herbalist, Ash, who has a shop in town. She develops a strong bond with Ash, who is concerned for Maggies zeal to dive in too quickly to the potions and magic described in Bella's diary. He sends Maggie to "Liz" a strange old woman who lives alone and who is quite obviously a witch. Liz shares her knowledge with Maggie, but holds back a secret that is later revealed in the novel.
As Maggie becomes more and more involved in witchcraft, the time she spends away from home and her children becomes a sore point between she and her husband, Alex, who would prefer that she sit at home, minding the children all day.
Also, as Maggie reads further, she discovers that Bella has a "dark sister" mentioned only as "A" in the diary, whom she accuses of causing her to do things that she doesn't want to. Bella becomes increasing paranoid and frightened in her diary and Maggie wants to find out why.
She tries the potions and finds out things about Alex which, coupled with his jealousy of her new hobby and her time away, prompts a serious rift in the marriage, as Alex is completely absorbed in a new area of the dig, which is producing some very exciting and disturbing finds. This dig is an area, coincidentally, which Maggie herself suggested that he might find something.
Maggie continues to move too quickly into the world of Wicca, and on the brink of losing her children and her sanity, comes to a discovery of the true story of Bella and her dark sister.
The story of Bella and her dark sister is so moving and sad, and speaks so well of human ignorance. The novel ends well, and I felt that loose ends were well tied up. I especially loved the way the novel was written, in terms of the speech used by the Bella, and old Liz.
This is a wonderfully entertaining novel, which explores both Wicca, it's past, and equality in relationships. Enjoy!