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Book Review: "The Flaw in the Crystal" ed. by Mike Ashley

4/5 - a lesser-known writer of ghost stories...

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

Full Title: The Flaw in the Crystal and Other Uncanny Stories by May Sinclair edited by Mike Ashley

“In the last death we shall be shut up in this room, behind that locked door, together. We shall lie here together, for ever and ever, joined so fast that even God can't put us asunder. We shall be one flesh and one spirit, one sin repeated for ever, and ever; spirit loathing flesh, flesh loathing spirit; you and I loathing each other.'

May Sinclair's life was apparently filled with horrors. Her family suffered greatly as two of her brothers died from heart failure before they were 35. Her mother was a constant source of annoyance as May herself wanted to be a writer and wanted to do what the boys were doing - yet, her mother wanted May to be a dainty and silent woman. May fought back against this and did whatever she wanted to do regardless of how her mother felt about it, admitting that she could not write if her mother was in the same room because she was that irritating. But, thankfully - May Sinclair still wrote anyway.

From: Amazon

The anthology opens with a short introduction about May Sinclair's life which basically covers over all the horrors that happened whilst she was young. After this, we get straight into some really good stories with the first of those being called Where Their Fire is Not Quenched. It's a wonderful name for a story and it's all about a woman who becomes discontented with her life and marriage options after the man she loves dies and she herself starts an affair with a married man. It covers the life of Harriet from when she is seventeen to when she is in her older years and is a terrific narrative. I am not going to say how it ends though because the ending is absolutely brilliant.

Another story in the anthology that I enjoyed was called The Token. It is about a narrator who tells us the story of her brother and how he was haunted by the ghost of his late wife. This is a man who treated his wife with unkindness and distance and ultimately, was not emotionally available for her. One of his most prized possessions creates the hardest amount of tension between him and his wife though, that when she touched it he scolded her horribly. Treatment became much worse and so, in her death, she haunts her husband's private library. It is an amazingly descriptive tale with some classic ghost tropes that I am sure anyone who likes supernatural stories will enjoy.

From: Amazon

One more story I would like to talk about was called If the Dead Knew and is about a music teacher who seeks to marry one of his students. Unfortunately, he does not have the funds to marry and take care of her and he himself still lives with his mother. When his mother gets sick and is on her deathbed, her son starts to pray that hopefully when she does die he will inherit the money and lands and therefore, be able to marry. However, when his mother dies she comes back to haunt him with accusing eyes. This dark and eerie tale of guilt is pretty perfectly added to such a collection and honestly, I probably liked this story the most because of the main character being so wholly unlikeable.

May Sinclair's uncanny stories are some of the most under-read stories of her era and honestly, I could not tell you why other than the writing just fell out of fashion. They are wonderful supernatural stories, some of them even have some very strange twists and some of them are not even very frightening nor are they supposed to be. May Sinclair is brilliant at creating these atmospheres and I think more people should read her in order to truly appreciate her talents.

All in all, I thought that this book was a brilliant example of the Late Victorian Ghost Story. They are amazingly written with immersive storylines and three dimensional characters. May Sinclair's work has wrongfully been overlooked in comparison to other, perhaps more prominent writers. Hopefully, now that more of her work is out there thans to The British Library, there will also be more readers of her work.


About the Creator

Annie Kapur

195K+ Reads on Vocal.

English Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

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  • Andrea Corwin 2 months ago

    Thanks for sharing this. I will check it out!

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