What I found most appealing in this novella was Gaskell’s sense of realism. Her descriptive style in comparing 1600s Salem and its surrounds as an almost medieval land, wild and untamed, ties in well with the Puritan harshness of the witch fervency.
Lois is an innocent, come to live in the New Colonies with an unknown uncle and his family after the death of her parents. Her Anglican faith is viewed suspiciously, and it is not long until we see she is being suspected of being a witch. The story moves rapidly along these lines due to the unwelcoming and hypocritical family she lives with.
Gaskell was acutely interested in the history of the Salem witch trials, corresponding with authors from the U.S. who had written about them. It is difficult to lay out more plot as this is novella length, but I found it to be one of my favorite Gaskell stories I have read. Her usual beautiful use of language is there of course, but again, her sense of realism is the real draw. Originally published in a periodical in the mid 1800s, this is now offered as a re-print through Hesperus Classics.
Rating: 5 stars