I am very glad this is finally back in print after thirty years. I did not find it very frightening, but much like Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle, it was atmospherically creepy.
There were certain parts of the book that didn't sit well with me ideologically, but that doesn't have any bearing on the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to just about anyone.
This book consisted of two novelas.
Jane-Emily was a nicely written, compact horror/suspense story about a ghost of a hateful, selfish girl who in life always got her way, and is managing to do so after death.
However, the story that interested me the most was "Witch's Children". Based in Salem during the witch hunts, and told by one of the girls who started out naming witches with her friends and tries to back out when the family to whom she is indentured is named, it shows one horrific explanation about what happened. There was little real supernatural involved. Instead, it told the story about a group of bored, repressed girls who found a way to vent and misbehave...imagine, screaming in church and prayer meetings, having "fits", and doing other things unheard of in a strict Christian community, and getting away with it. Their antics got them much craved attention as well, even if it was negiative.
It may have started out as a game, it their antics soon took on a life of it's own. Soon, some of the girls were halucinating (or at least sayiing they were) horrific scenes involving the devil, and the other girls claimed to (really) see it as well. If one girl started a fit, the others found themselves drawing energy and imitating the behavior, often seemingly without conscious decision.
At first, the adults of Salem suspected a bid for attention, or were sympathetic, thinking the girls had an unknown illness. But when no one could figure out any other explanation for the behavior, then they expected demonic possession and witches.
When the girls were asked to name their tormentors, in order to save themselves, they started pointing fingers. And, this gave them power. I don't like you, or you did something bad to me, I will calll you a witch, and you will hang. And, if any of the group wants to stop, we will name you. too.
As the villiage-wide histeria continued, the villiage elders became crueler and crueler in their interogations, even torturing children (not of the group) to force them to name their parents. If you confessed to being a witch, you would be forgiven and let go. But, since the vast majority of prisoners felt that lying was a sin, they clung to their innocence and were hanged.
And, oh yes, the "poor possessed" children were considered messengers of God because they pointed out witches.
And sad too, because the young naarrtor of the story wat totally rejected by the family, who may not have loved her, had at least treated her well for an indentured servant.
The stories were tight, decently paced, and held my interest throughout.
Wonderful supernatural book.