Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"The Villa Lucienne" by Ella D'Arcy

It's back to The Virago Book of Ghost Stories for this week's short story post. The clock has been turned ahead almost fifty years from Mrs. Gaskell's suspenseful tale, "The Old Nurse's Story". This week's story is "The Villa Lucienne" by Ella D'Arcy. Here are the opening two sentences:

"Madame Koelegon told the story, and told it so well that her audience seemed to know the sombre alley, the neglected garden, the shuttered house, as intimately as though they had visited it themselves, seemed to feel a faint reverberation of the incommunicable thrill which she had felt - which the surly guardian, the torn rag of lace, the closed pavilion had made her feel. And yet, as you will see, there is in reality no story at all; it is merely an account of how, when in the Riviera two winters ago, she met with some friends to look over a furnished villa, which one of them though of taking."

Upon finishing the story and rereading the first paragraph, it's apparent this opening is also the perfect review. I wondered how it had come to be included in a collection of ghost stories, when there is only a passing mention of a woman (or ghost) seen by a child, that remains unseen by the adults. What the story does, however, is paint a series of very vivid images which rapidly shift between great beauty and eerie, cool darkness and unease.

Ella D'Arcy (1856? - 1939) was a regular contributor to The Yellow Book Quarterly, where "The Villa Lucienne" appeared in 1896. Her writing was said to be influence by the "New Realism" of naturalistic French fiction. Her stories often show a psychological realism and an unsentimental treatment of character and situation that critics have compared to Balzac and Zola.

D'Arcy's descriptions were, for me, clearly reminiscent of Zola. Although this story is representative of this "naturalistic fiction", I am surprised at it's inclusion in a collection of ghost stories. It can be read in its entirety here.


  1. I like the sound of this short story. Her photo is so cool!!

  2. You're working on me! I'm loving the sound of this entire book.

  3. This does sound interesting. Perhaps it's a "ghost" story precisely because the child is the only one to see the apparition? Children so often see things that adults miss....Guess I'll have to go read it & see for myself! Thank you.

  4. Staci - I loved that photo, too.

    Sandy - This is a great collection. I bet you'll be at the bookstore after next week's installment.

    DS - I was surprised because there was only a sentence or two about the ghost. Other than that, it was mostly atmospheric.

  5. Perfect for Halloween! Looks like a good story.

  6. I've had the experience of reading a story out of my Ghost Stories book that wasn't 'ghosty' at all and wonder why it was in the book. Perhaps I'm missing something.

    There's a woman that comes into the library who is always wanting me to read Balzac! One of these days...

  7. I'm adding this book to my Halloween weekend reading! :)

  8. This story sounds lovely.

    BTW, you have a new lake photo (on your header), which nicely reflects autumn.

    I love it!

  9. Reviewsbylola - It was a good story, but not nearly as scary as last week's.

    Darlene - I think this was included because of it's realism...at least it has the token mention of a ghost, lol! I'll get around to Balzac one of these days, too.

    Matt - It's a great choice for Halloween weekend!!

    Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow: You're the first one to notice the photo! I had the camera on zoom, so it's not quite as crisp as I'd like, but I loved the colors.

  10. Not only did I not get a chance to read a short story for this week, I didn't even get to read your post until today (Sunday)! I like the beginning because of a storytelling episode in my own life. I almost think I told you this in a comment, but it may have been someone else's blog. Someone had mentioned the du Maurier story Don't Look Now. Anyhow our friend saw the movie and told us the story so very well that we too 'knew' the city of Venice and could see that red caped vision and have been scared thinking about it for all these many years since. Whew! .

  11. Nan - I'll have to look for that Du Maurier story...it sounds good! It's been a crazy week here, too. Hope to get a another short story post out tomorrow.


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