Friday, September 24, 2010

The Haunted House

For my second R.I.P. Challenge read, I grabbed this slim volume, The Haunted House by Charles Dickens, from my bookshelf.  I can't even remember where I picked this up, but I do recall setting it aside to read during this time of the year.  I've read just about every novel by Dickens, but this was one I'd never seen before.  I hadn't examined it very closely, so I was a little surprised (given the single byline on the cover) to find it contains several stories by other authors, nestled within a larger story authored by Dickens.  I was also interested to discover that the work was written as one of Dickens' popular Christmas tales - even though it has little to do with the holiday other than the story taking place in December.

At any rate, I adored the opening portion of the book.  Dickens is such a skillful writer, and I have always loved his sense of humor, particularly the subtle way he has of poking fun of things just a little, here and there, as he tells his story.  And yes, at times he's not subtle at all - but that is fun, too.  Our hero is a young man who has been advised to spend some time in the country to improve his health. He decides to rent a house that is said to be haunted, mostly because he seems to want to debunk the idea, but the servants are so hysterically frightened of every little thing about the place, that the narrator and his sister decide to let them all go, and instead invite their friends to stay for the holidays.  They will take care of the house themselves, and perhaps the truth about the haunting will come to light.

Their friends agree to come, and it is decided that they will not discuss any unusual events they witness during the course of their stay.  On Twelfth Night, though, they will gather together and each tell the group about their experiences.  Each guest tells a story, and each of these stories is written by a different contemporary of Dickens - and in addition to the introduction and the conclusion of the book, Dickens has contributed a story of his own.  The authors of the tales are Hesba Stretton, George Augustus Sala, Adelaide Anne Procter, Wilkie Collins, and Elizabeth Gaskell.

I had expected to find traditional ghost stories collected here, but instead I found stories about ghosts of an altogether different kind - stories, for the most part, that made me sit back and think them over in the light of what it means to be haunted.  I enjoyed some more than others, as is typical with a collection of tales - but what an interesting collection of stories they were: happy, distressing, moving, suspenseful, dreamlike.  In the end I certainly did not feel as though I'd been shivering over creepy stories, but there were elements to these tales that will definitely linger in my mind. 

The Haunted House by Charles Dickens and others (Hesperus Press, 2002; originally published in 1859)

Source: My own personal copy

Click here for a free e-version of this book!

Also reviewed at:

Fleur Fisher Reads"This was a fun read over a couple of dark winter evenings and, though it isn’t Dickens at his best, it is still a lovely Victorian curio."

6 comments:

  1. This is pretty cool! I really like the Hesperus Press collection of unusual titles by classic authors.

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  2. I saw this around not too long ago but I still haven't read it. I think the only Dickens I've managed to read is A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations.

    OT: Did you hear that Jennifer Rardin died?

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  3. Ladytink - Oh, no, I had not heard that! That is awful! She was so young. Wow, that is terrible news. Thanks for letting me know. :-(

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  4. Nicola - I agree - this is a sweet edition, very well put together, and with a really attractive cover. My only issue is the font size - it's sooo tiny!

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  5. Oh, the tiny print would turn me off! I haven't heard of this Dickens before, though, so I am intrigued!

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  6. Kailana - I don't know what it is about publishers and classics, and making the print so small. This isn't quite as bad as some, but it's such a short book that surely a slightly larger font wouldn't have been difficult to manage? Anyway, check out the free e-version - you can make the font any size you like! :-)

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