The Witches is a classic horror novel that was published in the 1960s. When Miss Mayfield accepts a teaching post in the village of Walwyk it seems like a dream come true! A good salary, an idyllic location and the cottage she’s always dreamed of. But things changes when she suspects that one of her pupils is being abused by her grandmother. When she begins to investigate, sinister events start to be uncovered that leave her, and others, in danger.
This a ‘hammer’ horror book (a company more well known for their films) and the book maintains the same eerie feel as many of the films. I would not say that this is a book to fill you with terror – instead I felt that it left me with a slightly edgy feeling. The plot was reasonably good, there were a number of parts that left me guessing and frantically turning the pages. It was generally well-paced and it was easy to follow the events. Unfortunately there were a few minor plot lines within the story that didn’t go anywhere; and were ultimately just left hanging. It would have added to the book if these had been developed and tied up at the end.
The thing I enjoyed most in the book was how realistic the setting was. While reading I really felt the isolation and oppressiveness of the village. The lack of telephones in most homes, the reliance on written letters for communication and a general feelings of fellow villagers keeping tabs on everyone also enhanced the atmosphere.
For the most part, the characters felt real and were well developed, but I never really felt a connection to any of them. At times I could identify with Miss Mayfield’s feelings of hopelessness and anxiety but I mostly felt like I was watching events from above, rather than being in her shoes. And again, linking to the plot lines that did not go anywhere, there were characters which also seemed to do this; as if they had no real contribution to the story at all!
My final thoughts on this book are average. It was ok. I liked the idea behind it, but I felt that it needed a lot more development.