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Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories

Review

Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories

introduced and illustrated by Audrey Niffenegger

Dark stormy nights. Creaky floorboards. Vampires. Werewolves. The Walking Dead. These are just some of the images we associate with Halloween season. Lovers of a good tale will fondly recall telling ghost stories while around a campfire or improvising at home with the lights out and only a flashlight for illumination. ’Tis the season for happy haunting and trying hard to scare each other.

The literary equivalent of the Halloween season can be best experienced in the genre of short fiction. With GHOSTLY, author and illustrator Audrey Niffenegger (of THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE fame) has attempted to do her part by compiling a collection of classic and more recent short horror stories. Each tale shares a common theme: some sort of ghost or haunting at its heart.

"GHOSTLY may not offer sleepless nights but definitely will creep into your psyche and go 'boo' as you move from one haunted tale to the next."

"The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe is the first short story and has remained one of his most popular horror tales since its initial release in 1843. Using a cat as an agent of justice and a scourge of bullies ironically mirrors Poe's own life as he himself was the owner of a black cat as a pet. We spend time with other classic giants of horror and the unknown, like M.R. James and Edith Wharton. Niffenegger indicates that James wrote his stories with the intention that they be read aloud --- in classic campfire ghost story fashion.

Authors more well known for classic literature are also included in this collection. Rudyard Kipling, Saki and P.G. Wodehouse are featured in contributions that range from the morose to the comical. Kipling's tale, "They," is a story he used to reflect his own feelings over the loss of his young daughter, Josephine.

Modern writers also play a part in this creepy collection. Perhaps the best and one of the most effective tales here is Neil Gaiman's succinct short story, "Click Clack the Rattlebag," which does a nice job of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. A.S. Byatt's "The July Ghost" is a powerful story that was born of the grief she felt over the death of her 11-year-old son Charles, who was killed in a car accident.

Other lesser known modern authors like Kelly Link and Amy Giacalone are featured here, and offer tales with a spooky babysitter and a group of odd miniature spirits, respectively.  The book concludes with Bradbury's literal haunted house story, "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains."

Niffenegger provides a nice intro to each story, and her unique illustrations complete the package. GHOSTLY may not offer sleepless nights but definitely will creep into your psyche and go “boo” as you move from one haunted tale to the next.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 9, 2015

Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories
introduced and illustrated by Audrey Niffenegger

  • Publication Date: October 6, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction, Horror, Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 1501111191
  • ISBN-13: 9781501111198