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Book Review: "The Ghost Stories of M.R James" ed. by Roger Luckhurst

5/5 - a great collection of masterful stories...

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

With formidable quickness it moved into the middle of the room, and, as it groped and waved, one corner of its draperies swept across Parkins's face. He could not—though he knew how perilous a sound was—he could not keep back a cry of disgust, and this gave the searcher an instant clue. It leapt towards him upon the instant, and the next moment he was half-way through the window backwards, uttering cry upon cry at the utmost pitch of his voice, and the linen face was thrust close into his own.

- Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad by M.R James

M.R James is one of the greatest ghost story writers to ever live. Known for the nonbelieving academics who encounter the supernatural against their will in some ancient and weird form, these stories may have a similar framework but they are by no means the same. Every time you read an M.R James story, you can usually learn something about panic, superstitions, collective fears and the way people are confronted with their own misgivings, mistakes and darknesses. So, let's have a look at the very best things about this collection by The British Library of The Ghost Stories of M.R James.

The first story I really enjoyed may have been one that I have read before but, within the British Library's text it is considered a major treat to find that it made the cut despite not being one of the best known by the author. It is called The Ash Tree and is about the panic about witches that grips a town and accuses a woman named Mrs Mothersole.

Matthew Fell can see a horrifyingly large ash tree from his window and, every night there are strange things that Mrs Mothersole apparently does there. When she is tried and hanged, things start to get even weirder. Sir Matthew is found dead sooner or later and yet, that is not the end of it. The house is passed on through inheritance and yet, we have not even got into half of the story. The ending is absolutely horrifying and, when I was a kid, it actually used to scare me.

Note: the only reason I knew about this story when I was a child is because I had a book of 'collected ghost stories' and this story just happened to be in there. When I say the word 'child' I mean the phrase 'under 16 years' old' - and that should make it better.

From: Amazon

Then there's the classic tale called Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad which is quite possibly one of the best-known ghost stories of all time. A professor at Cambridge University is going to stay at The Globe Inn on a holiday to Burnstow and, when his colleague finds out he asks the professor to check out a strange Templar site there. After a game of golf on the first day, he does go to the Templar site and finds a bronze whistle and, when he goes back to his room he starts to see the shape of a person in the distance. But, being a bit of a cynic, he ignores it.

As he reads the sides of the candle, he sees the figure again - looking at the Latin inscriptions carefully. The story darkens as the main character is unable to sleep, plagued with nightmares and confronted with possibility before the traumatic conclusion. An extremely well written ghost story, you won't wonder why it's so widely read.

The final story that I loved is yet another that I have read before (yes, I have read all of these stories before but it is still nice to read them again). It was called Casting the Runes. It is about a man who reviews a text and then, begins seeing a supposedly unrelated name everywhere. After this, there are some things to do with a curse that I won't go into too much detail about because it'll be a bit of a spoiler. However, the ending really gets you thinking about whether the story is really over or, whether all of this may just happen again and our protagonist is in grave danger.

All in all, I love the stories of M.R James and it was a real treat to read the best stories he has to offer in a handy little book by The British Library. It definitely serves as a good companion for nights where a good night's sleep is not that much of an option.

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About the Creator

Annie Kapur

200K+ Reads on Vocal.

English Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

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  • Alex H Mittelman 3 months ago

    Another great review 💜

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