• The Witches: Salem, 1692
  • Cleopatra: A Life
  • A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America
  • Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov): Portrait of a Marriage
  • Saint-Exupéry: A Biography

The Witches: Salem, 1692

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"...haunting...the first major commercial nonfiction book on the subject in decades...Ms. Schiff instead delivers an almost novelistic, thrillerlike narrative of those manic nine months. By sidestepping most of the popular theories, The Witches...stands out from much of the existing literature." The New York Times

"Schiff's contribution is her ability to render history in vital detail, and from a contemporary perspective." The Seattle Times

"A masterful researcher." Entertainment Weekly

"...her intelligence, pithy prose and storytelling flair carry the day, sweeping the reader along to a realm at once forbiddingly foreign and frighteningly familiar." The San Francisco Chronicle

"She provides a trial narrative unsurpassed for detail and impressive for her mastery of fragmentary and frustrating sources." The Wall Street Journal

" takes a writer of Schiff's confidence and brilliance to tackle [Salem witchcraft] anew." The Washington Post

"[A] masterful account." The Los Angeles Times

"Schiff sheds significant light on the dark period. Schiff [...] returns to historical records to create a lucid, coherent account of just what happened in 1692." The Columbus Dispatch

"Her excellent, detailed research, much from original files and transcripts of the trials, takes the reader right into the accusatory scenes; experiencing the terror of both the accuser and the accused. She designs a macramé of blurred responsibilities that even the best artist could not untie." New York Journal of Books

"The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer provides an account of a foundational American tragedy of mass hysteria and injustice. At its best, the latest work from Schiff (Cleopatra: A Life, 2010, etc.) ably weaves together all the assorted facts and many personalities from the 1692 Salem witch trials and provides genuine insight into a 17th-century culture that was barely a few steps away from the Dark Ages...The author writes in a sharp-eyed yet conversational tone...As history, The Witches= is intelligent and reliable." Kirkus Reviews

"A fresh take on the Salem witch trials." Boston Globe

"Her books are based on serious scholarly research, yet they're conveyed in bright, accessible prose...[Schiff] displays the same sharp intelligence and eclectic interests that distinguish her body of work." Publishers Weekly

"Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Schiff (Vera: Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov, Cleopatra) chronicles the surrounding events [of the Salem witch trials], painting a vivid portrait of a homogenous, close-knit network of communities rapidly devolving into irrational paranoia....Discarding false legends and lore while expertly capturing and communicating the social climate of this particular time and place, she provides a compulsively readable slice of Americana that will appeal to both book clubs and a wide variety of individual readers....The best-selling Schiff never disappoints, and her eagerly anticipated account of the Salem witchcraft tragedy lives up to expectations, providing a fascinating account of one of the most infamous years in American history." Booklist, starred review

"Riveting nonfiction." Entertainment Weekly fall books preview

"Schiff, who had a hit with her biography Cleopatra, may get even more attention for her new look at America's infamous witch trials." St. Louis Post Dispatch fall preview

"[Schiff] tackles another angle on female power." Time Magazine fall preview

"A reliably entertaining guide." Newsday fall preview

"Elegant prose and exhaustive research." — KQED Fall Preview

"[Schiff] provides exciting digressions into the nature of continental and New World witchcraft, local political and social disputes, religious instruction, and Puritan life....The last 50 pages are the strongest as they pose possible explanations for why the craze occurred and the various motivations of the afflicted, the inquisitors, and confessors....This fully documented narrative...will find a welcome audience among readers of witchcraft or colonial histories as well as Schiff's legion of fans. Library Journal

"Excellent." The Hairpin

"It's a really good story, go read it." Fast Company's 'Today in Tabs'

"Pulitzer-winner Schiff (Cleopatra: A Life) applies her descriptive prowess and flair for the dramatic to the Salem witch trials. The book is packed with details and delivered with a punch...Schiff's passionate use of the active tense places the reader right in the midst of the action...This retelling succeeds as a work of gripping popular nonfiction." Publishers Weekly

"Schiff paints a vivid picture of 1692 Massachusetts and brings the Salem trials to life." San Antonio Express News

"Through an immersive narrative involving a cast of dozens pulled from the historical record (villagers and authorities; accusers and accused; ministers and skeptics), Schiff skillfully re-creates the visceral tensions at the heart of everyday life in the Massachusetts Bay settlement...Instead of shilling for any single cause, she reconstructs the time and place in remarkable detail, offering portraits of the protagonists in all their poignant, if often infuriating, humanity." Bookforum

"Unlike the drudgery of the movie adaptation of The Crucible, which you probably watched in high school, Schiff writes with conviction and a strong sense of narrative, elevating the dry snooze of history to a new level. It's an endlessly fascinating read." — Gawker

"Few authors set the scene of history quite like Stacy Schiff...[her latest] brings a fresh eye to the worst misogynist atrocity in American history, tracing the complex cultural and psychological origins of the Puritan hysteria." —

"No stone left unturned...Schiff re-creates the most chill-inducing, finger-pointing months in American history." Marie Claire

class="blurb">"Schiff's account is better written than any I have are likely to find yourself turning the pages (as I did) with a sense that until now you'd never quite taken in what happened...[a] brilliantly assured narrative." Christianity Today

"Stacy Schiff gets it. She gets people. She studies lives tirelessly and fiercely and perfectly, and when she is finished studying, she publishes works of flawlessly interpreted, beautiful, and meticulously researched prose....has the gripping narrative of a novel...Schiff's exacting eye and compelling narrative voice take us closer to comprehension than ever before." — Barnes & Noble Blog

"Possesses a talent for forcing us to rethink what we know." AARP

"Fantastic...reminds all of us that witches are highly imaginative and smarter than you and disrupt the patriarchy wherever they go." — Kristin van Ogtrop, TIME Magazine

"Schiff brings to bear a sensibility as different from the Puritans' as can be imagined: gentle, ironic, broadly empathetic, with a keen eye for humor and nuance. Thanks to this, and to Schiff's narrative gifts, the present-day reader flits above New England's smoky chimneys and thatched rooftops... it is wizardry of a sort—in a flash of brimstone, a whole world made wondrously visible." The Atlantic

"The hottest biographer on the block...She returns to give her dazzling IRL treatment to the Salem witch trials, and unlike the blatantly allegorical The Crucible, passing H. P. Lovecraft references, and Hocus Pocus, or any other pop-culture reference to Salem, Schiff's book is actually about the people who lived through the trials. Schiff is at her best, infusing a historical event with as much life, mystery, and tragedy of any novelist. The scariest book on the list, because everything in here actually happened." —

"Fresh feminist insight...a psychological study of colonial America's tragic witch trials." Elle

"A masterful account of the epidemic of paranoia and religious fervor that overcame residents of Essex County in the Massachusetts Bay Colony...Her accomplishment is all the more remarkable because there are no records of the court sessions — Schiff sifted through archival material as well as historical accounts written by witnesses years after the epidemic." LA Times

"Compulsively readable form...In the book's final sections, Schiff expertly unknots what drove the Puritans to mass delusion." Newsday

"Historical acumen and storytelling flair...she brings her gifts to the confusions of Salem." Harper's

"Absorbing and unsettling...Schiff provides a wealth of colorful detail about the Puritans' lives." Barnes and Noble

"A sweeping history of the Salem witch trials...Schiff nimbly connects Salem's fatal mania to subsequent witch-hunts, such as McCarthyism and the rise of Movement conservatism, revealing how close we remain to the specters and demons that stalked the Bay Colony more than three centuries ago." Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Remarkable...Schiff delves into the minds and history of 1692 Salem as no one has before." — Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Brilliant, exceptionally well-researched account of the 1692 Salem witch trials...Much of what is so compelling about The Witches is how vividly Schiff brings this very different era to life...This narrative approach works so well because Schiff just happens to be a superb and witty writer....The Witches definitely sparkles." Bookpage

Further praise for The Witches

"History in the hands of Stacy Schiff is invariably full of life, light, shadow, surprise, clarity of insight, and so it is again and then some in her latest work, The Witches. Few writers combine as she does superb scholarship and an exceptional gift for language with amazing reach and agility of mind. This is a superb book." — David McCullough

"The Witches is the fullest and finest story ever told about Salem in 1692, and no one else could tell it with the otherworldly flair of Stacy Schiff." — Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Quartet

"From Cleopatra to the Salem coven. From intelligent rule to hysteria, mayhem, and murder. The Salem witch trials offer Stacy Schiff an out-sized drama that seized Americans' imaginations more than 300 years ago. All of Schiff's books demonstrate her rigor as a historian and her dexterity as a stylist. The Witches proves she has something else: the instincts of a thriller writer. This book needs a seat belt." — Kathryn Harrison, author of Joan of Arc

"Once again Stacy Schiff dazzles us. The Witches is a must read for anyone intrigued by this baffling and horrifying chapter from America's Puritan past. What Schiff uncovers is mesmerizing and shocking. Her meticulous research and lyrical writing lay bare an injustice that we should never forget-lest we repeat it." — Patricia Cornwell, author of Depraved Heart

"The Witches is a vivid investigation of the original American nightmare. Stacy Schiff brilliantly teases apart the strands of myth and history. In an age when superstition remains a vibrant and dangerous force, her book is, alas, also relevant." — Russell Shorto, author of The Island at the Center of the World

"This brilliant, compelling book is the most meticulously researched, effectively constructed, and beautifully written work I have read in a very long time. It is dramatic history and also a timeless thriller: who—or what—drove a New England town to madness three centuries ago, resulting in the deaths of nineteen men and women for 'witchcraft?' The answers are astonishing." — Robert K. Massie, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Catherine the Great

"Enchanting. Out of the shadows of the past come excitable young girls, pompous ministers, abusive judges, grieving parents, and angry neighbors, all of them caught up in a terrifying process that seemed to have no end: discovering who among them deserved death for being in league with Satan. The Witches is as close as we will ever come to understanding what happened in and around Salem in 1692. Courtrooms, streets, churches, farm yards, taverns, bedrooms—all became theater—like places where anger, anxiety, sorrow, and tragedy are entangled. An astonishing achievement." — David D. Hall, Harvard University

"Stacy Schiff's The Witches is an indelibly etched morality fable, the best recounting of the Salem hysteria in modern times. Clear-eyed and sympathetic, Schiff makes the complex seem simple, crafting a taut narrative that takes in religion, politics, folklore, and the intricate texture of daily life in Massachusetts Bay, with particular attention to those 'wonder-working' women and girls who chose this moment to blow apart the Puritan utopia they'd helped to found. It's all here in one devilish, oracular book." — Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Margaret Fuller

Stacy Schiff has beautifully combined remarkable story telling with historical accuracy and insight. She has opened up important new avenues for Salem scholarship." — Bernard Rosenthal, editor of Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt

"Stacy Schiff has brought her extraordinary gifts as researcher and writer to revivify the old but endlessly compelling story of the 1692 Salem witch hunt. Her mastery of detail, her ingenuity in spotting connections and trend lines, and her intuitive feel for the people involved combine in a brilliant portrayal of cascading human tragedy. It is sharply etched. It is ground level. It is emotionally powerful. It is full of surprising twists and turns. If history is time travel, this is a journey readers will never forget." — John Demos, author of Entertaining Salem

"Schiff delves into the archive to remind us that one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice in American history was also one of the few moments which featured regular women—not queens, not goddesses, but mothers and wives and daughters and servants—at the very center of drastic historical change. A wrenching, unforgettable read." — Katherine Howe, author of The Appearance of Annie van Snideren

Cleopatra: A Life

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"A work of literature." Judith Thurman, The New Yorker

"Enthralling" Maureen Dowd, The New York Times

"A masterpiece." Michael Korda, The Daily Beast

"Stacy Schiff is that rare combination: a first-rate historian and a brilliant storyteller. Using a wide range of sources, she spins straw into gold, conjuring the world of Ptolemaic Egypt in full vibrant color, and returning the voice of one of the most powerful, fascinating, and maligned women in history. Cleopatra is impossible to put down." Rick Riordan

"The most compelling biography of the year." Liz Smith,

"In Cleopatra: A Life....Schiff strips away the accretions of myth that have built up around the Egyptian queen and plucks off the imaginative embroiderings of Shakespeare, Shaw and Elizabeth Taylor....In doing so, she gives us a cinematic portrait of a historical figure far more complex and compelling than any fictional creation, and a panoramic picture of her world....Schiff seems to have inhaled everything there is to know about Cleopatra and her times, and she uses her authoritative knowledge of the era — and her instinctive understanding of her central players—to assess shrewdly probable and possible motives and outcomes." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"It is a beautiful pairing—the most alluring and elusive woman in recorded history, and one of the most gifted biographers of our time. Style, like leadership, is difficult to define, but we know it when we see it. We see it here on every page." Joseph J. Ellis

"Even if forced to at gunpoint, Stacy Schiff would be incapable of writing a dull page or a lame sentence. Here she trains her satirical eye and sterling erudition on Cleopatra, rescuing her from the many shopworn myths that have encrusted her story from Plutarch to Shakespeare to Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Schiff's luminous prose evokes the ancient world with vivid splendor, whether it be the cosmopolitan charms of Alexandria or the murderous feuds of Rome. Her portraits of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony are fresh and provocative. Best of all, Cleopatra emerges as much more than the voluptuous seductress of legend and comes across as a shrewd, cunning, and highly competent monarch who knew how to thrive in a Mediterranean world of savage politics." Ron Chernow

"What dazzles us in Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra are not the alluring mythologies about the evasive queen, but the astonishing if rare historical facts that Schiff has meticulously and lovingly excavated. Schiff offers not just Cleopatra's story but the story of an amazing era, one that has vanished but still affects us, questioning the way we look at myth, history, and ourselves." Azar Nafisi

"Great historians can make the discovery of the real story more exciting than the romantic myth. Stacy Schiff, a great historian as well as a wonderful writer, peels away the layers to reveal the true Cleopatra&mdasdh;a much more interesting woman than the Hollywood version and, as it turns out, a formidable queen after all." Evan Thomas

"An epic subject requires a writer of epic skill and scope, and we have a perfect pairing in Cleopatra and Stacy Schiff. Absorbing and illuminating, this new biography will endure." Jon Meacham

"This is an astonishing, scrupulously researched, meticulously assembled retelling of one of the world's most famous lives—and it will become a classic." Simon Winchester

"I am grateful to Stacy Schiff first of all because she can write a sentence—because she offers us her scholarship with wit, clarity, and grace. Once again, she has done what only the best writers can do: she has made the world new, again." Tracy Kidder

"Stacy Schiff's meticulous research, the depth and deftness of her portrayal, have given us a Cleopatra far richer and more satisfying than the myths and fantasies that we have mistaken for true nourishment. This Cleopatra is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the history and lives of women." Mary Gordon

"Stacy Schiff is that rare combination: a first-rate historian and a brilliant storyteller. Using a wide range of sources, she spins straw into gold, conjuring the world of Ptolemaic Egypt in full vibrant color, and returning the voice of one of the most powerful, fascinating, and maligned women in history. Cleopatra is impossible to put down." Rick Riordan

More reviews

A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America

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"This is a book to savor. Every page has some new nugget of insight, or some graceful turn of phrase that generates a verbal airburst over the most psychologically agile American of his time, perhaps of all time. Schiff has given a genuine jolt to the recent surge of interest in Franklin, along the way demonstrating why she is generally regarded as one of the most gifted storytellers writing today." Joseph J. Ellis

"Stacy Schiff's extensive scholarship, her eye for the colorful detail, and her lively wit combine to bring alive—in full dress and in an absorbing narrative—the cast of statesmen, adventurers, spies, courtiers, patriots and con men who have a part in the story of Benjamin Franklin's negotiations for American independence, and to fix among them America's greatest diplomat, winning his way (and America's) in a style of calculated disarray. An extraordinary book." Edmund S. Morgan

"What a brilliant book. A Great Improvisation pays tribute to the extraordinary love affair between monarchist France and the republican Benjamin Franklin. Their child was America, conceived at home and nurtured into maturity by France. It is a story full of intrigue, jealousy and passion. But ultimately it is a celebration of one American's love for his country. Stacy Schiff has written a masterpiece, capturing a fleeting moment when the stars aligned between Congress and Versailles." Amanda Foreman

"A stunning book...Lively, witty, and extremely readable...It is hard to put the book down....A remarkably subtle and penetrating portrait of Franklin and his diplomacy." Gordon S. Wood, The New York Review of Books

"In sparkling prose, burnished to a high gloss, Stacy Schiff tells the tale of Benjamin Franklin in Paris with piquant humor, outrageous anecdotes worthy of the finest French farce, and a wealth of lapidary observations. Her Paris unfolds as a glittering carnival of spies, rogues, frauds, and flawed reformers, eccentric nobility and perpetually squabbling American diplomats. Towering above all is the protean figure of Franklin, an improbable compound of wit, cunning, hypocrisy, courage, and tireless devotion to his country. C'est magnifique!" Ron Chernow

"An impressively researched, fine-grained account of Franklin's Paris years, and his critically important mission to secure French support and French money. The French adventure, as Ms. Schiff convincingly argues, should be remembered as Franklin's finest hour." The New York Times

"[A] fine new biography...Ebullient." The Economist

"Magnificent....Schiff has such command of tempo that she sends shivers down a reader's spine." The Los Angeles Times

Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov): Portrait of a Marriage

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"There are many good reasons to be interested in the life of Véra Nabokov, but the best one is that Stacy Schiff has written it. She is the rising star of literary biography: witty, lucid, penetrating and humane." — Judith Thurman

"Véra is an astonishingly fine book—a tale told with wit and elegance, a tale that succeeds in encompassing both the intimacy of a marriage and the sweep of history...I'm in awe of Stacy Schiff's talent." — Jonathan Harr

"Véra is a beautiful book. Built on a heroic scale, it is subtle, intimate, and richly argued. Almost every page projects a truly remarkable woman and her part as tutelary spirit in the work of a great writer. Has there ever been a literary marriage so productive, complex, and intriguing as this one?" — Justin Kaplan

"I am truly in love with this book. Schiff's sentences are magnificent, deceptively complex, full of insight and fact and distance and wry humor, so that every page is a kind of mini feast." — Anita Shreve

"Schiff has succeeded in creating an elegantly nuanced portrait of the artist's wife, showing us just how pivotal Nabokov's marriage was to his hermetic existence and how it indelibly shaped his work. She effortlessly conjures up the disparate worlds the couple inhabited...a formidable challenge for a biography—a challenge that Ms. Schiff, with this book, has most persuasively met." — Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"An absorbing story, illuminated by Schiff's flair for the succinct insight...This portrait of a fifty-two-year marriage to a woman who was teh writer's prime reader open up Nabokov's private life....But the triumph of Véra is not just in providing entrée to her famous husband. She fascinates of her own right." — Lyndall Gordon, The New York Times Book Review

"Schiff has performed a monumental task in drawing a nuanced and fairly detailed portrait of the woman behind the mask both husband and wife conspired to create.... Writing in sprightly prose that captures the 'verbal tennis' of the couple's interactions, [she] has given us a vivid and truthful portrait of a proud and gifted woman whose contribution to Vladimir Nabokov's life and career was immense." The Boston Globe

"A sharply focused, vividly detailed portrait. Schiff's elegant prose style [is] at once forceful and playfully allusive in the nicest Nabokovian fashion." The Los Angeles Times

"Artful...both revolutionary and old-fashioned, an intimate biography that leaves both the imagination and the privacy of its subject intact." Newsday

"Illuminating...'Without my wife,' Nabokov once remarked, 'I wouldn't have written a single novel.'...Schiff's work boldly and brilliantly illuminates how complex was this deceptively simple statement...A superb portrait." — Louise DeSalvo, The Chicago Tribune

Saint-Exupéry: A Biography

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"A remarkable biography; indeed, it is impossible to imagine the job better done. It is balanced, perceptive, thoroughly researched, and exceptionally well-written." The New Yorker

"Superb, spirited, enthralling. For anyone who enjoys a fascinating life-story well told, this is a book not to be missed." — David McCullough

"What distinguishes this biography from so many others is the elegance, witty intelligence, and sheer line-by-line pleasure of the writing... An exemplary biography." — Phillip Lopate

"A beautiful piece of writing, supremely poised, drawing so effortlessly from its research that it is hard to believe Schiff wasn't an eyewitness; she shows a flair for storytelling that even her subject would envy." The Observer (London)