Halfway through this novel it dawned on me that this could be interpreted as a deeply allegorical story (I'm slow on the uptake). Despite being set in olde England, when witchery and pillorys were believed in (when convenient), it could be a story of politics and class in America today. Behaviours don't change over the centuries - every generation starts afresh and tries to figure it out on their own. The one thing we are remarkably adept at is rationalising away our moral shortcomings--a skill quickly evidenced by the first-person narrator in this story. It's a remarkable tale of the emotions, behaviours and dependent interactions of the inhabitants of a small village, their fates foretold by their class and economic status.
Cruelty and power are the ways of entropy to which life naturally drifts.
This is longlisted for the Booker, and will be a good contender for the shortlist.