The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories – Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Published 2016; edited by Tara Moore

I’ve been publishing my impressions of the installments in this well-researched and thoughtfully curated selection of short stories as I made my way through the book; here’s my final review of the collection. If I haven’t already written a post about a story, I’m including some notes below; for previous posts see the Blog (just click Blog on the menu).

The tales were originally published in various periodicals of the day, and the standouts are “The Captain of the Pole-Star” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and “The Doll’s Ghost” by F. Marion Crawford.

Conan Doyle, of course, wrote the Sherlock Holmes mysteries; his skill translates well to the ghost story published here. The story is taken from the diary of a shipboard medic, which leaves the reader to wonder whether the write of the diary survived either the real dangers associated with winter voyages or the less solid ghostly threat.

“The Doll’s Ghost” is creative and touching – and also, at first slightly menacing to anyone who’s watched more than one episode of “The Twilight Zone” or “Night Gallery.” I think it’s the best story in the book.

The stories I haven’t mentioned yet are “The Mysterious Visitor” by Ellen Wood, “The Haunted Rock” by W.W. Fenn, and “The Lady’s Walk” by Margaret Oliphant:

“The Mysterious Visitor” was adequate as a ghost story, but to get to the ghost part, the reader is forced to wade through introductory pages identifying people who have nothing to do with the core narrative; this was annoying.

“The Haunted Rock” seemed unfocused and paced unevenly, but I’ll admit that by the time I read it I was tired of reading ghost stories. Others might like it.

“The Lady’s Walk” is about a kindly family ghost who watches over them and tries to enlist the help of the narrator when danger is afoot. It’s focused and logical (if one can use that term for a supernatural tale), and it’s available to read free on Project Gutenberg.

In closing, although you can find several of the stories online for free (I’ve provided links if I’ve been able to find them), the value in reading them from this collection is the introductory information provided before each chapter, that adds richess to each tale.

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