This book actually contains two novels that have been republished together. Jane-Emily is from 1969, while Witches' Children was first published in 1982. They seem a bit aged (you can sort of tell they are older) but they are still interesting stories.
Jane-Emily is set in an earlier time period and centers on Louisa, a young woman sent to spend the summer with her niece (Jane) at the grandmother's house. Jane is a very impressionable girl who suddenly becomes fascinated with a reflecting ball in the garden. The ball belonged to her Grandmother's daughter Emily who died at a young age. Emily is described as a manipulative hellion who got everything she asked for and had a fit when she didn't get it immediately. Jane soon begins to see Emily in the ball and has a few possessed moments thanks to the dead child. Louisa, who tries to put no belief into Emily, soon begins to date Adam, Emily's childhood friend/sweetheart. While Emily begins to impose upon their days, Louisa and Jane fear that she might also prevent the young lovers from being together, even if it means taking someone's life.
This novel, while intriguing, didn't live up to its potential. While it did contain a few creepy moments, they were few and weak. Maybe I'm a little jaded by today's standards of suspense (the novel is only 38 years old) but there could have been more. The characters, though, were interesting, particularly Emily who continued to rule beyond the grave.
Witches' Children details the events of the Salem Witch trials. It is told through the eyes of Mary Warren, a young girl who, you might say, gave into peer pressure. Her friends were interested in the powers of Tituba, a woman who could trance herself and read palms. One young girl also appeared to have the ability to "trance herself" and others wanted to try it too. Despite the warnings of bad things to come, they began to "see the devil" and suddenly become overwhelmed with screams and twitches. There was a large group of these children and when one began screaming, it was contagious for the other children, including Mary. Word began to seep out that the children were possessed and the next thing they knew they were claiming townspeople, witches, were pinching them and causing them to act in such a way. Multiple people, despite claims of innocence, were accused of being witches. Soon Mary's masters were charged with being witches and she began to realize that none of what they said was true. That caused her to be charged as a witch. In a great example of the times, merely stating that you were in fact a witch granted you forgiveness and an escape from death, while, as Mary said, "...to proclaim oneself innocent is to declare oneself guilty" (243). Soon the hype dies down, but not before most of the accused "witches" were hung.
While Witches' Children felt like a bit of a slow read (possibly due to faltering interest in the novel), it was intriguing to read it as a human nature story. The impact that these girls had on the town was utterly amazing. Scream a little, cry out someone's name, and suddenly that person is on trial. Mary knew that it was wrong and she was able to cease such behavior, but most of the girls weren't willing to give up the power they had. They were able to condemn anyone who'd wronged them in the past. And the way that people of authority gave into it and kept pushing until the point that people gave the answers they looked for...sheesh! The human nature aspect of this novel was amazing.
By today's standards these novels are a little mundane, but overall they weren't bad. You just had to approach them in a slightly different manner.