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Book Review: "Haunters at the Hearth" ed. by Tanya Kirk

4/5 - a brilliantly chilling Christmas-themed anthology...

By Annie KapurPublished 2 months ago • 3 min read
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From: Amazon

Full Title: Haunters at the Hearth: Eerie Tales for Christmas Nights edited by Tanya Kirk

He moved his head slowly, and looked me in the face, without speaking a word. I shall never forget that look while I live. I turned cold at heart under it. I turn cold at heart even now when I recall it. His eyes glowed with a fiery unnatural lustre. His face was livid as the face of a corpse. His bloodless lips were drawn back as if in the agony of death, and showed the gleaming teeth between.

The Phantom Coach by Amelia B Edwards

I know I am a bit late when it comes to reading more Christmas stories but honestly, it is the British Library Tales of the Weird series so how was I supposed to resist it? Wintery and cold tales of ghosts and strange happenings makes for great atmosphere and I love anything that can challenge the idea of Christmas being a warm and inviting time - turning it somewhat creepy and sour instead. The introduction leaves us with a lot to wonder upon the Golden Age of the Christmas Ghost Story during the years of the 1860s - but also states it gives us stories from over a hundred years afterwards as well. Honestly, though I'm not completely crazy about this particular sub-genre, I do love something chilling now and again and what better way to chill yourself than to read a wintery ghost story?

Obviously, the anthology is going to open with a pretty big name like Amelia B Edwards. This is a rare treat as I feel like she never really gets the recognition she so sorely needs - more people need to know who she was and what she did for the ghost story. Especially with her story The Phantom Coach which tells the story of a strange fourth passenger in a coach crash. It resonates with the strange stories of Charles Dickens in which the main character must come to some sort of realisation before the story actually can actually come to a close at all. Amelia B Edwards is one of the best ghost story writers after Mary Elizabeth Braddon and, in following her tradition of sad ghost stories, there is something truly chilling about her writing.

From: Amazon

Another story I thought was pretty good was called The Mirror in Room 22 by James Hadley Chase. Now, this probably was not as scary as the stories of Amelia B Edwards or the one by WW Jacobs within the anthology but it was still pretty well written. I'm not normally the kind of person that likes lots and lots of dialogue but in this story it actually works. When it comes to the narrative we have a war time kind of vibe and a strange story that someone has committed suicide in some bedroom (oh yes, I'm getting The Shadow in the Corner by Mary Elizabeth Braddon from this story quite strongly).

Another story I quite enjoyed was The Waits by LP Hartley. It is about a bunch of carol singers at Christmas time who come to the door of a man and his family and so, he sends his daughter Anne, to give them some money. She comes back and says it was not enough money, repeating what the carol singer had said to her. Only, these carol singers are not all as they seem to be. It goes from finding them nicely honest to being able to apparently see through them. The ending is as abrupt as the entrance of the carol singers themselves. It makes for a definitely chilling vibe to Christmas time which makes you even more careful of who you opent he door to.

All in all, I thought that this book was a wonderful addition to the British Library Tales of the Weird series as it has all the makings of a wintery anthology alongside the typical weird ghost stories that we expect of the compilations. They are all so well written and go from the late Victorian age all the way through the wars and end up on the other side of it all. I can definitely say I have learnt so much about the modern ghost story from these books and I am better for it.

literature
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About the Creator

Annie Kapur

195K+ Reads on Vocal.

English Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

đź“ŤBirmingham, UK

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