Monday, 2 November 2015

Short Review: 'Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories' ed. by Audrey Niffenegger

Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost StoriesHalloween has come and gone again. So if you're also having scare-withdrawals then a collection of beautifully creepy and scary ghost stories is rather appropriate. Ghostly does the job beautifully, giving us some good classics and also some relatively unknown, contemporary short stories. Thanks to Scribner and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 27/10/2015
Publisher: Scribner
Collected and introduced by the bestselling author of The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry--including Audrey Niffenegger's own fabulous new illustrations for each piece, and a new story by her--this is a unique and haunting anthology of some of the best ghost stories of all time.      
From Edgar Allan Poe to Kelly Link, M.R. James to Neil Gaiman, H.H. Munro to Audrey Niffenegger herself, Ghostly reveals the evolution of the ghost story genre with tales going back to the eighteenth century and into the modern era, ranging across styles from Gothic Horror to Victorian, stories about haunting--haunted children, animals, houses. Every story is introduced by Audrey Niffenegger, an acclaimed master of the craft, with some words on its background and why she chose to include it. Audrey's own story is "A Secret Life With Cats."  
Perfect for the classic and contemporary ghost story aficionado, this is a delightful volume, beautifully illustrated by Audrey, who is a graphic artist with great vision. Ghostly showcases the best of the best in the field, including Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, A.S. Byatt, Ray Bradbury, and so many more.
As the title of the collection may suggest Niffenegger didn't go out of her way to pick utterly terrifying stories, but rather ones that are 'uncanny'. "The uncanny" is this fascinating term that can apply to a lot of different things and yet means something quite specific. It derives from the German term 'unheimlich', which literally means 'not like home' i.e. something unusual. What is so great about this term is that anything and everything can be uncanny under the right circumstances. A man putting out his trash? That's quite normal, we all do that. When it happens in the middle of the night that's a bit different. Personally I love it when stories tap into this because it's so much easier to unsettle a reader when they can't put their finger on what exactly feels wrong. If you're looking for a collection full of terrifying stories, Ghostly is probably not for you. If you want to be just a little terrified, this is it for you.

Something I wasn't expecting was the chronological structure of Ghostly. A key part of a good anthology is how it is organized, what it is that connects one story to the next. Often it will be either theme or time and when it comes to a genre like ghost stories the latter is a brilliant choice. Poe was one of the first people to truly do write horror or ghost stories. Part of his revolutionary writing was that his victim were female, something that wasn't done in those times. It was shocking and new and the genre has never looked back since. As Ghostly progresses it is really fun to see what each new generation of writers picks up, how social change also means literary change. Each of the chosen authors has something new and unique to offer, which makes each new story a revelation. Niffenegger precedes each story with a short introduction, telling the reader about her own personal connection to it and the author. Her drawings are stunning and fit perfectly with the stories.

I give this collection...

4 Universes!

Ghostly is a short and fun collection of great stories, each playing beautifully with the uncanny and the reader's sense of unease. Whether it's classics such as Poe or more modern stories by Neil Gaiman, there will be something in this collection for everyone. I'd recommend it to those looking for ghost stories that won't terrify but thrill.

1 comment:

  1. This does sound really cool! I do tend to prefer my scary books to be pretty scary, but I can deal with uncanny as long as I know what to expect! Great review :D

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds