Monday, October 19, 2009

More Virago Ghost Stories

The Virago Book of Ghost Stories is still supplying plenty of Halloween-themed reading. This week, I've moved ahead another forty years, to the late 1930's, and selected works by two new-to-me authors.

"The Station Road" by Ann Bridge was originally published in 1936. It begins:
There was a little pause when the last speaker finished. We sat round the fire, each occupied with his own thoughts; the mind of each seeking its own solution of the problems raised by the uncanny story to which we had just listened.

I was immediately reminded of Henry James' The Turn of The Screw, which also opens around a fire with the telling of a strange tale. The similarities may not extend much further, but an outstanding ghost story was already anticipated. Bridge did not disappoint. A mysterious evening visitor, a deserted road, a train station, a murder, and a warped time dimension combine to deliver a chilling story.

Next up was "Roaring Tower" written by Stella Gibbons (author of Cold Comfort Farm) in 1937. This story is about a young woman sent away by her parents to visit an aunt in Cornwall, in hope that she will forget an inappropriate attraction.

The passions which invade a heart at nineteen, like a beautiful menacing army, seem faded and small enough if one looks back on them after a lapse of fifty years, as I am doing now, but on the late summer morning I describe, as I waited with my parents under the dome of the railway station, no heart could have been fiercer, and yet colder, than mine. One voice, which I should never hear again, sounded in my ears, and one face, which I had promised to forget, filled my eyes.

The ruin of the Roaring Tower, surrounded by beautiful rose bushes, captures her imagination after hearing a strange sound emanating from deep within. This story involves village lore, a large bear-like monster, a fall into the tower, and a questionable state of consciousness. It proved to be another wonderfully atmospheric Halloween read.

Next week, the last Monday before Halloween, I'll be reading a more modern ghost story from the same collection. Visit The Book Mine Set to see more Short Story Monday posts.

7 comments:

  1. I'm loving these short stories! It totally takes me back to the things I used to read when I was younger!

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  2. I think I may really enjoy this collection of short stories. I have never read "Turn of the Screw" maybe I will sometime.

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  3. Are you noticing a change in styles or anything as the chronology gets younger and younger?

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  4. I won a copy of this book on ebay (before my book buying ban!) and am waiting anxiously for it to arrive. Will be good for Halloween.

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  5. Oooh I want this book! Ann Bridge is superb - track down her novels as you won't be disappointed. Illyrian Spring is one of my all time favourites.

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  6. Sandy - These stories have been so much fun. Now in addition to being surprised that I enjoy short stories, I'm amazed that I love ghost stories, too!

    Staci - These stories are great, but it took some effort to get through The Turn of The Screw.

    John - In addition to the language itself, there have been some other changes. My plan is to do a wrap-up post on the ghost stories the week after Halloween.

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  7. Verity - This is the perfect choice for Halloween weekend reading. Enjoy!

    Rachel - Don't be shocked, but I'd never heard of Ann Bridge before reading that story! I will try and track down her novels. I'm guessing Persephone doesn't publish her books?

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