Spooky stories for Hallowe’en

Miss Guy recommends three tales to scare you for Hallowe’en, thinking you will enjoy these thought-provoking offerings from Dylan Thomas, Zenna Henderson,  and Elizabeth Bowen.

“A tale of incest and insanity, The Burning Baby [by Dylan Thomas] … glowers with images of unrelenting horror.  The narrative enthralls and appalls, the last line is bone-chilling.”  rbadac, The Weird Review,
It’s a must for all Thomas fans out there, and definitely frightening enough for the season…
     Zenna Henderson’s The Anything Box is a story about a young girl, aged around six who is entering first grade in a 1950s American school.  She appears to be a loner, otherworldly and a little odd to the other children.  Her father is undergoing a trial for a serious crime and Sue-lynn’s way of coping seems to be that she retreats into a world where she can look into her anything box, which, to everyone else is imaginary but to her is tangible and real.  She can look into it and escape from everyday worries.  The mystery is that her teacher, the narrator of the story, can feel it too and experiences her own warm feelings generated by this box…
     The Demon Lover, written by Elizabeth Bowen, tells of a woman returning to her London home to retrieve some belongings left behind when the family moved to the country to escape the bombings during the Blitz, who finds a mysterious letter on her hall table.  Knowing that she is alone in the house, when she reads the letter she is frightened as it brings back memories of  her fiancé who left her in 1916 to fight in the Great War.  His menacing presence is sensed and you have to read on to be fully enthralled by the story.
Other titles you might enjoy are:
            Susan Hill‘s The Woman in Black
            Shades Shorts Ghost Stories
            Marghanita Laski‘s The Victorian Chaise-longue
As usual, if you have thoughts which you’d like to share, please leave a comment here.  Happy Hallowe’en!
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Her fearful symmetry (Audrey Niffenegger)

Recently, Miss Burt recommended Audrey Niffenegger’s second book, Her fearful symmetry, to Mrs Maxted, who thoroughly enjoyed it.  A synopsis follows:

“When Elspeth Noblin dies of leukaemia, she leaves behind a strange bequest that will have dramatic and tragic consequences. She leaves her London flat and all the trappings of her life to the ‘mirror’ twins of her own twin sister who currently live outside Chicago. This is news to the twins who didn’t even know that they had an aunt. The only condition of her legacy is that the twins, Julia and Valentina, have to live in the flat, which is adjacent to Highgate Cemetery, for a year before they can sell it. It is clear from the outset that Elspeth has secrets about her relationship with her twin sister Edie, which she is keen to keep hidden from the twins, but when it turns out that Elspeth hasn’t quite left the apartment after her death, things get a whole lot messier for everyone.” thebookbag.co.uk

Mrs Maxted felt that this was a well-told tale and read it as such, she didn’t think it was speculation on an afterlife  existence, particularly but wondered what people think about methods used to communicate with the dead…

 

Mrs Ferguson’s fantastic fiction…

We asked all members of staff at school for their ideas about what they found to be great books for the summer holidays and Mrs Ferguson read so many, here are just five of her favourites:

Beyond black by Hilary Mantel

“An hilarious and sinister tale of dark secrets and secret forces in suburban England from the critically-acclaimed author of ‘Giving Up the Ghost’. Alison Hart is a medium by trade: dead people talk to her, and she talks back. With her flat-eyed, flint-hearted sidekick, Colette, she tours the dormitory towns of London’s orbital road, passing on messages from dead ancestors: ‘Granny says she likes your new kitchen units.’ Alison’s ability to communicate with spirits is a torment rather than a gift. Behind her plump, smiling and bland public persona is a desperate woman. She knows that the next life holds terrors that she must conceal from her clients. Her days and nights are haunted by the men she knew in her childhood, the thugs and petty criminals who preyed upon her hopeless, addled mother, Emmie. They infiltrate her house, her body and her soul; the more she tries to be rid of them, the stronger and nastier they become. This tenth novel by Hilary Mantel is a witty and deeply sinister story of dark secrets and forces, set in an England that jumps at its own shadow, a country whose banal self-absorption is shot through by fear of the engulfing dark.”  NielsenBookDataOnline

Fludd by Hilary Mantel

” ‘Fludd’ is a dark fable of lost faith, mysterious omens and awakening love set among the priests and nuns of a surreal English town deep in the northern moors. Fetherhoughton is a drab, dreary town somewhere in a magical, half-real 1950s north England, a preserve of ignorance and superstition protected against the advance of reason by its impenetrable moor-fogs. Father Angwin, the town’s cynical priest, has lost his faith, and wants nothing more than to be left alone. Sister Philomena strains against the monotony of convent life and the pettiness of her fellow nuns. The rest of the town goes about their lives in a haze, a never-ending procession of grim, grey days stretching ahead of them. Yet all of that is about to change. A strange visitor appears one stormy night, bringing with him the hint, the taste of something entirely new, something unknown. But who is Fludd? An angel come to shake the Fetherhoughtonians from their stupor, to reawaken Father Angwin’s faith, to show Philomena the nature of love? Or is he the devil himself, a shadowy wanderer of the darkest places in the human heart? Full of dry wit, compassionate characterisations and cutting insight, Fludd is a brilliant gem of a book, and one of Hilary Mantel’s most original works.”  NielsenBookDataOnline

Mrs Ferguson rates both books by Mantel as fantastic.  Her other choices come from Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk:

My name is Red

“The Ottoman Sultan has commissioned the best artists in the land to create a book celebrating the glories of his realm: but he wants them to illuminate it in the European style. Because figurative art is deemed by many to be an affront to Islam, the project must be kept secret. Panic and scandal erupt when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears, along with a crucial page of the manuscript. The surviving artists – bitter rivals variously motivated by pride, greed, jealousy, faith and love – are all under suspicion of murder, and the only clue to the mystery lies in the half-finished illustrations themselves. “My Name is Red” reveals the clash between two views of artistic meaning and the chasm between two world civilizations. In this special edition, the author includes a chronology of Islamic and Western art history to provide valuable context for his story, and has contributed a fascinating introduction throwing light on his methods, his aims and his inspiration.”  NielsenBookDataOnline

 

Istanbul

“Turkey’s greatest living novelist guides us through the monuments and lost paradises, dilapidated Ottoman villas, back streets and waterways of Istanbul – the city of his birth and the home of his imagination. This is a supremely moving account of one man’s love affair with the city that has been his home since his birth.”  NielsenBookDataOnline Just makes me want to visit Istanbul…

 

 

 

 

Snow

As the snow begins to fall, a journalist arrives in the remote city of Kars on the Turkish border. Kars is a troubled place – there’s a suicide epidemic among its young women, Islamists are poised to win the local elections, and the head of the intelligence service is viciously effective. When the growing blizzard cuts off the outside world, the stage is set for a terrible and desperate act…Orhan Pamuk’s magnificent and bestselling new novel evokes the spiritual fragility of the non-Western world, its ambivalence about the godless West, and its fury.” NielsenBookDataOnline

 

 

Some inspired reading appears here, please leave a comment…