A man and his sister rent a house that is allegedly haunted. The servants have hysterics and are dismissed; they are replaced by friends of the principals. On Twelfth Night the company assembles to tell stories about the ghost that haunts each room although none of the stories are really about ghosts.
Each story is by a different author. Hesba Stretton tells a Mills and Boon type story about the unrequited love of a shallow woman: romantic and moralising simultaneously. George Augustus Sala tells a funny tale of a young man who destroys his chances of married happiness by shaking; this quite funny narrative is resolved with the wonderful line 'all this was but a dream'. Adelaide Anne Proctor writes in couplets about a nun who is tempted to escape from the cloister and leads a dissolute life before returning to discover that no-one has noticed her absence because the Virgin Mary has taken her place in the convent. Wilkie Collins narrates a yarn about a sea dog who is tied hand and foot in a boat filled with gunpowder that is about to be blown sky high. Charles Dickens recounts how a young schoolboy fantasises about having a seraglio: it all turns sour when his impoverished family have to send him to a poor school: apart from bearing witness to the extravagant sexuality underpinning Victorian prose this also seems to be a metaphor for the terrible time when the young Dickens was removed from school and sent to work in a blacking factory because his father was in debt. Finally Elizabeth Gaskell writes in dialect about an honest Yorkshire farming family and their fast son who goes to London and turns bad (very Great Expectations).
An intriguing collection of tales. It was instantly clear that the best authors are Dickens, Gaskell and Collins but the others keep the fantasy going.
January 2012; 121 pages
- Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57