It’s no secret that I enjoy reading 19th century English lit, and within this broad category I love a good Gothic tale. Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, and The Turn of the Screw are all favorites of mine, and I’m searching for more.
So you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon the Ghostly Tales collection on NetGalley! The collection is seven short stories from different authors, like Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Robert Louis Stevenson. All the stories are slow-burn tales about the supernatural, where the build is just as important as the reveal.
From creepy children, screaming skulls, body snatchers, and warnings from the future, these ghost stories rely heavily on atmosphere and creating feelings, rather than driving deep into characters. That’s not to say that the stories don’t touch upon common themes in the Victorian era, especially science and reason vs. faith and the supernatural.
I also noticed that every story is a narrator telling an old tale, whether they witnessed the events firsthand or knew the person who did. Gives the feeling that the narrator is telling you the story as the two of you are sitting next to the fireplace while sipping some good tea. If you choose to check Ghostly Tales out then do so in the Autumn!
My favorite stories are The Old Nurse’s Story by Elizabeth Gaskell and The Captain of the Pole-Star by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I also really loved The Screaming Skull from F. Marion Crawford, and it has the best opener:
“I have often heard it scream. No, I am not nervous, I am not imaginative, and I never believed in ghosts, unless that thing is one. Whatever it is, it hates me almost as much as it hated Luke Pratt, and it screams at me.” (pg.139)
From the description, it is probably easy to gather that this collection of short stories is pretty niche. This is only going to appeal to, and satisfy, readers who really love this genre. Actually, all the stories have similar beats, and for me this is probably the main negative when recommending to others.
Another major plus: the illustrations are gorgeous, and I could have done with a few more pages. Each one helps set the atmospheric creepiness of the stories. Bill Bragg does an amazing job with shading and color selection, and I would hang a couple of those paintings on my wall. I’m always looking for unique books for my home library, and I think the pictures alone make this a worthy purchase.
If you are in the mood this Fall for a good collection of stories to read on the porch, while you snuggle in a blanket, tea in hand, then I would recommend giving this book a try. Just the right amount of scare to send chills down the spine and get ready for Halloween.
**I want to thank NetGalley and Chronicle Books for this ARC, and I received it for a honest review.