Monday, October 26, 2009

Still More Virago Ghost Stories

Another Short Story Monday, and my adventure with The Virago Book of Ghost Stories continues. This is a wonderful collection, arranged chronologically and spanning a period of 150 years. There are two contemporary stories (1980's) to talk about this week.

"Ashputtle: Or, The Mother's Ghost" was written by Angela Carter in 1987. It opens:

"A burned child lived in the ashes. No, not really burned - more charred, a little bit charred, like a stick half-burned and picked off the fire; she looked like charcoal and ashes because she lived in the ashes since her mother died and the hot ashes burned her, so she was scabbed and scarred. The burned child lived on the hearth, covered in ashes, as if she was still in mourning."

One paragraph in, and I was wondering if this story was really for me! But since it's very short and an author I'd been wanting to read for quite some time, I persevered...and I'm so glad I did! The story is simply magical and reads like a fairy tale.

"Her mother was dead and buried but still felt perfect, exquisite pain of love when she looked up through the earth and saw the burned child covered with ashes."

The story tells how the mother's ghost won't rest until her child is safe and cared for. I loved it!

"Redundant", written by Scottish horror/supernatural writer Dorothy K. Haynes (1918-1987), is the final story in the collection. It tells of Hamish, a hapless man who goes through life taking the jobs that nobody else wants.

'Taken' was perhaps the wrong word. It implied choice, and Hamish never chose anything. He simply accepted what was left.... Sooner or later every job he took would end. He was never fired, or angrily dismissed; he was too well-meaning for that. Simply, he was made redundant, but not nobly redundant, with a handsome settlement as a reward for years of service; merely unwanted after a period so short that there was no time for benefits to accrue.
When Hamish becomes ill and dies, his ghost assumes the job as driver for "the death coach". The ghost really likes the job but, in death as in life, Hamish becomes redundant once again. While this story was pleasant enough to read, it was not particularly memorable .

Visit John at The Book Mine Set to see more Short Story Monday posts.


  1. At first the idea of a burned child turned me off but then I found that I would want to read this story!!

  2. I think I have to find a copy of this book! I hope you had a good time at Parent's Weekend. The Read-a-Thon was great fun. I'm not sure if I'll read or cheer next time.

  3. Staci - The burned child nearly put me off, but I am so glad I continued with this one!

    Gavin - I love this collection! Hope you can locate a copy. We had a great time at Parent's Weekend, but I plan on joining you for the next read-a-thon!

  4. I'm so glad you persevered with "Ashputtle", JoAnn! It's based on an old version of Cinderella, hence the ashes.

  5. As a man who's had 1000 jobs, I enjoyed hearing the premise of the second one.

  6. Paperback Reader - Cinderellla was in my mind all the way through.. I just loved this story!

    John Mutford - This was a good story, but it left me feeling more sad than scared...not all that ghostly.
    1000 jobs? Hope it's been by!


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