Susah Hill writes amazing supernatural tales. I figured it’s better to flag my status as being ‘in awe of Susan Hill’ as soon as possible; not that there’s usually any room for confusion. Hill is a modern day expert as regards the ghost story, and her novella The Woman in Black one of the finest examples of supernatural literature to date. When it comes to setting a scene, and soaking the reader in a world written in spookiest ink, Hill knows the score.
John Keats once wrote a letter to an acquaintance, J. H. Reynold, as to how he would impress him with emotionally charged prose: “I’ll cavern you, and grotto you, and waterfall you, and wood you, and water you, and immense-rock you, and tremendous sound you, and solitude you…” he promised. As in a similar style to the Romantic poet, Susan Hill has a toolset to effect all of the finest literary gothic traditions. Click here to read more.. »
Imagine, if you will, a book so spooky that the person responsible for transcribing it from the author’s notes and cassette tape wouldn’t do so, unless there was someone else with them in the house. Such behaviour is more than understandable, given the atmosphere of Susan Hill’s ghost novel The Woman in Black.
Its subsequent evolution into a highly successful West End play (running since 1989), and soon to be released film starring Daniel Radcliffe (aye, he of Harry Potter fame) should not therefore surprise anyone familiar with its source material. It’s got panache, and it’s genuinely chilling. Click here to read more.. »
Japanese novel Strangers (the original title translates in its native language to Summer of the Strange People) is a haunting tale that plays upon the precepts of the traditional ghost story in several interesting ways. Set in Japan, it’s about middle-aged and divorced salary man Harada who has just moved into a new building that is used primarily as an office space by the other tenants.
Due to his unusual living arrangement, only he and another mysterious woman inhabit the building as proper residents. The woman, who we later find is named Can Kei, seems steeped in a melancholy sadness that follows her around, lingering, and is made more curious by a large physical scar which she bears upon her body. Click here to read more.. »
Robert Aickman knew how to craft a spooky tale, of this I have no doubt. Several strong collections of his work stand testament to this (Sub Rosa: Strange Tales being the 1968 publication from which The Inner Room originally featured).
The novella/short story being reviewed here is as strong an example of his ability to create a world, and with it characters and situations that pull you hypnotically in, and then leave you in a sense of daze and disarray as you begin to second guess exactly what is going on.
The Inner Room is a simple story really, or at least it appears to be on the surface. Dealing with an average family, with their habits and ways, and their quirks and foibles. The decision of the family’s young daughter (and subsequent narrator of this tale) to buy a dolls’ house when offered a choice of any gift by their father whilst on a trip creates the hub of the story, and from it flows a mystery that might not look so out of place in a tale by M. R. James. Click here to read more.. »
I trust you’ve all finished your Christmas shopping, wrapping, card writing and sending, decoration hanging, and food preparation duties? If so, and you’ve been good this year, then why not treat yourselves to Charle’s Dickens’ classic Christmas ghost story A Christmas Carol in audio novel format as provided to the listening public free of charge online by those kind folks at Penguin. You can listen to the novel, narrated by Geoffrey Palmer, at the Penguin audio site here.
In the meantime I want to wish all of our readers a Happy Christmas. I hope you have a great one, and that you also manage to squeeze in an hour or two with a good book (spooky or not).