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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars

VINE VOICEon 18 December 2011
I must admit that I have never read anything by Elizabeth Gaskell before and if I hadn't heard 'Lois the Witch' dramatised on the radio I probably still wouldn't have. However, it had such a profound effect on me that I bought the book which is actually 4 different Novellas each with the same or similar theme. In the first, 'Poor Clare' an old woman thinking she has lost her daughter, inadvertently curses her and her line. The old lady isn't a Witch but somehow her curse works so to make amends she joins the Sisterhood or Convent of the Poor Clares. This was a brilliant and very moving story indeed. The second, The 'Doom of the Griffiths' is about an another family who live under a curse, the third is 'Lois the Witch' in which a poor orphaned English girl is sent to Salem to live with her Puritanical Aunt and Uncle and their family. Again, this was superbly written and you really feel for the characters that Gaskell has created. The final story is perhaps my favourite, 'The Crooked Branch'. An older (at that time), couple marry and eventually go on to have a son called Benjamin who they dote upon and who can do no wrong in their eyes. They also take in a young female relative in the hope that one day Benjamin and she will marry and take over their Farm. Things however, do not run to plan and Benjamin turns out to be a very bad lot indeed. This story affected me very deeply for some reason and perhaps this is why I found it the best of the four.

There is a theme in all four of these Novellas............greed, gluttony and mans inhumanity to his fellow man.

Superb writing and I shall certainly be reading more of this authors work in the future.
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on 28 March 2008
I studied Elizabeth Gaskell's North And South for my English Literature A Level, without much enthusiasm. Nearly 20 years later, I've taken a look at Mrs Gaskell's other work. She also wrote a number of short stories in the gothic genre, seemingly a world away from her more familiar social realism.

Lois The Witch is a novella based on the Salem Witch Trials of the late 17th century. Its heroine is an English girl, orphaned and sent to live with relatives in America. Gaskell depicts the climate of the new country powerfully. From the outset there is a sense of barely-suppressed fear and suspicion.

Puritanism had its grip on the pioneers, and tales of Indians in the woods are fed to the unsuspecting Lois. Nattee, the Indian maid, tells other stories - of memory and magic, her only link to a land and culture that has slipped from her hands.

It is perhaps inevitable that Lois, stranger in a strange town, will be accused when rumours of witchcraft start to fly. The strength of this novella lies in its characters - Gaskell could easily have written them off as grotesques, given her themes of religious mania, ignorance and bigotry. But she resists the temptation, and shows through each individual how the hysteria spread and turned the people of Salem against each other.

As is not uncommon in Victorian fiction, Mrs Gaskell interjects the narrative with her own opinions, and the benefit of hindsight. The story is less effective when she inserts statistics and speeches from the real Salem trials. It reads too much like journalism and seems out of place when she has already evoked the phenomenon so well through her own imagination.

All in all, Lois The Witch is well worth reading for anyone who has an interest in the Salem case. It has been published as a novella, and is also included in a collection of Mrs Gaskell's gothic works.
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Most people have seen or read The Crucible, but long before that Elizabeth Gaskell had written this amazing novella. Lois is a young girl living with relatives in Salem at the time of the infamous witch trials, and inevitably becomes caught up in them and accused of witch craft. With this book you get a true feeling of what it must have been like in those times, and how people felt and reacted to what was going on around them. This is truly a book that you can't put down until you have finished it, and the story stays in your mind for a long time after. Probably Gaskell's best story.
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on 19 June 2014
This was my first collection of stories from Gaskell and I was shaken to the core.

These stories have my favourite elements in a short collection where they are not too short or too long. Just right as Goldielocks would say.

They have am mixture of what seems to be accurate description of spells etc, I haven't researched, and this adds very much to the tales.

I would highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys a good occult story such as the Magician by Somerset.
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