Cade used a story structure that I hadn’t ever encountered before, each different scene/setting being prefaced with a parenthetical description. It was a bit odd in the first instance, but as soon as I hit the second one I was immediately “oooh, I want to see how the same characters and issues will unfold in each different setting,” so it proved to be effective. And so we see Eve, over and over again, in each of her different gardens, in Lisbon, in Jerusalem, in Alexandria, in Athens and elsewhere, as she continually plants “one creation at a time”. The result is an intriguing portrait of one of the most written-about women in history, and one that feels novel and fresh.
This story combines two things I’m not a huge fan of — 2nd person POV and body horror — into something that I actually rather enjoyed. The mesmerising narration felt more like a person talking to themself, rather than instructions to the reader, resulting in a very intimate and emotionally draining glimpse into a sad and rather sordid life.
Oh, my goodness, this was a masterclass of a story. Short, effective, beautiful language, an amazing setting and scene. It left me hungering for me, I want to read a full novel set in this world, with these characters. Just about perfection — stories like this are what make reading through the archives so worthwhile.
There are a lot of lovely fairy tale elements in this story, as well as echoes of the myth of Narcissus, but also a lot of patriarchal stereotyping with an underlying misogyny.
I would love to have been able to enjoy this story, but it just failed to push the boundaries in the way it maybe could have.
Review of Margery Lawrence, “The Curse of the Stillborn,” in Minor Hauntings: Chilling Tales of Spectral Youth, edited by Jen Baker (British Library, 2021): 295-312 — Order here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).
This story — featuring British missionaries living in Egypt — opened with a surprising commentary on colonialism and colonial practises:
“Dammit — why can’t you let ’em bury their dead in their own way?” (p. 295).
Mr. and Mrs. Bond cannot fathom why anyone would refuse the option of a good Christian burial for a child, which they are so generously willing to offer. And yet, Takkari and her daughter Mefren want nothing more than to be allowed to bury Mefren’s stillborn child according to their own practices and traditions.
While usually in western European ghost stories, the refusal of Christian burial is what dooms a tortured soul to walk the earth, in contradistinction here it is the performance of the Christian rite that traps Mefren’s child in ghostly limbo and invokes the curse of the stillborn. A rather surprising story to read, given the time it was published!
(First published in Hutchinson’s Mystery Magazine in 1925.)
Review of H. D. Everett, “Anne’s Little Ghost,” in Minor Hauntings: Chilling Tales of Spectral Youth, edited by Jen Baker (British Library, 2021): 277-292 — Order here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).
This story is of that ilk of ghost stories which are sad, rather than scary or haunting. Anne and Godfrey have been married nearly eight years and yet they are still just the two of them; their daughter, born two years into their marriage, died only a few weeks later. So when both are visited by the ghost of a six year old little girl, there is nothing scary at all about the visage, only a deep aching sadness the reader has for parents who have not only lost a beloved child, but with it the future they might once have dreamed of. And this time it is not only the mother’s loss that we are able to mourn, but the father’s too, for is not “the father’s tie as valid as the mother’s, if not so close and fond” (p. 289)?
(First published in The Death Mask and Other Ghosts, 1920.)
Review of Bessie Kyffin-Taylor, “Two Little Red Shoes,” in Minor Hauntings: Chilling Tales of Spectral Youth, edited by Jen Baker (British Library, 2021): 251-275 — Order here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).
This was an extremely intimate, and at times sometimes intensely difficult, story to read. The narrator tells her tale without any guile or hesitancy, which makes her recounting of the abuse of two young children that she witnesses all the more terrible.
It’s an extremely well written story, but not one I could in all conscience recommend anyone read.
(First published in From Out of the Silence, 1920.)
Review of Ellen Glasgow, “The Shadowy Third,” in Minor Hauntings: Chilling Tales of Spectral Youth, edited by Jen Baker (British Library, 2021): 219-249 — Order here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).
Margaret Randolph, is a young nurse, newly arrived in New York, who has been selected by the eminent Doctor Roland Maradick to care for his invalid wife, who suffers from mental distress brought on by the hallucination that her husband has killed her daughter. That Mrs. Maradick suffers from hallucinations or delusions Margaret is quite convinced because she has seen the child herself, wandering through the house, playing with her toys, doing all the ordinary things a child does.
But of course, this is a story of ghosts and not of madness and so what Margaret sees is perhaps not all that it appears to be. What I find fascinating in this story, and indeed in many of the ones in this anthology, is how little self-reflection there is about why it is that some people see ghosts, and others do not. There is never any doubt in Margaret’s mind that what she sees — phantasms included — is real.
(Originally published in Scribner’s Magazine, 1916.)
Review of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, “The Lost Ghost,” in Minor Hauntings: Chilling Tales of Spectral Youth, edited by Jen Baker (British Library, 2021): 201-217 — Order here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).
The horror in this story comes not from the ghost that haunts the house, but from the desperation of a child who, despite the cruelty she faced from her, wants nothing more than have her mother again.
(This version first published in Everybody’s Magazine, 1903.)
Review of F. Marion Crawford, “The Doll’s Ghost,” in Minor Hauntings: Chilling Tales of Spectral Youth, edited by Jen Baker (British Library, 2021): 183-199 — Order here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).
This was a mesmeric story — it drew me in and gripped me with the gentleness and the strength of its emotions and the realness of its characters. Lady Gwendolen Lancaster-Douglas-Scroop is utterly unconcerned when she falls down the stairs and breaks her doll Nina, as only an imperious six year old can be. Mr. Puckler the doll repairer is kind and caring, and the love he has for his 12-year-old daughter Else shines through — as does his fear when Else goes out to deliver the doll to Lady Gwendolen and does not return. Sitting with Mr. Puckler all night as he waits for her to come back, we feel his pain and anxiety as he does, and when the ghost appears, it is just as unsettling for the reader as it is for him. Despite the seemingly happy ending of this story, this is, in my opinion, one of the more chilling in this book.
(First published in Illustrated London News, 1896.)