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Mass Market Paperback Carmilla : And Other Tales of Mystery Book

ISBN: 0451526392

ISBN13: 9780451526397

Carmilla : And Other Tales of Mystery

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Format: Mass Market Paperback

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. An anthology of stories by the Victorian writer widely considered the inventor of the ghost story, who inspired such authors as Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley, includes the story of a young woman...

Customer Reviews

2 ratings

Classic Horror Tales by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

J. Sheridan Le Fanu is a master of ghost and horror stories. His style is gothic. The protagonist might be a young woman without family and friends. The setting is lonely and isolated, often a decaying manor or castle. A growing sense of malice and evil emerges as the story unfolds. Le Fanu was able to transform this trite formula into remarkably suspenseful stories that haunt the reader long afterwards. All thirteen tales in this collection are enjoyable on many levels: suspenseful horror, well-crafted plots, and interesting characterizations.Le Fanu's novels are noted for their leisurely pace, for their wordy and discursive style. His short stories are tighter, but still reflect Le Fanu's care in developing the setting and the atmosphere. I enjoy Le Fanu's antiquated style; it somehow adds verisimilitude to the accounts. The Evil Guest, the longest story in this collection, is quite successful as a suspenseful mystery, but what makes it memorable is Le Fanu's description of one man's descent into evil and eventual insanity. The Murdered Cousin is a traditional gothic story in which a young woman is entrusted to the care of an evil uncle. Le Fanu later expanded this tale into his most popular novel, Uncle Silas. Schalken the Painter, Green Tea, Mr. Justice Harbottle, and Sir Dominick's Bargain are among his most admired stories and are frequently encountered in anthologies. Although superficially they share a common theme about demonic visitations, all four tales offer unique, imaginative aspects that make them classics. I find Schalken the Painter and Green Tea to be especially frightening. Mr. Justice Harbottle is a story of demonic retribution, retribution fully deserved. Sir Dominick's Bargain is a conventional tale of a pact with the devil, but one with an unexpected twist.The title story Carmilla (1871) is ranked among the classic vampire stories, along with John Polidori's The Vampyre (1819) and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). The relationship between the heroine and the female vampire is surprisingly complex, adding a dimension not found in most gothic characterizations.Other stories in this collection include Ultor De Lacy, Wicked Captain Walshawe of Wauling, The White Cat of Drumgunniol, Madam Crowl's Ghost, Dickon the Devil, and Laura Silver Bell.I reviewed a paperback edition (1996) published by Signet Classic. This inexpensive edition (446 pages) is a bargain.

An entertaining selection of Victorian ghost stories.

I liked this book, but probably not quite as LeFanu intended I ought. The majority of stories are ghost tales, longer and less punchy but more engrossing than those of M.R. James, but with a very similar atmosphere. Most striking is Carmilla, an amusing Gothic story about a female vampire and her relationship with the narrator, her innocent girlfriend. Modern times have robbed the story of much of its horror, and Carmilla becomes as much an object of sympathy as a pure villain - a fact that raises new questions rather than weakening the tale. Like Gormenghast, it is easy to dismiss such writing as plain silly - much of the story IS rather daft - but the charm of the stories remains, provided that the reader enters into the spirit of the book. LeFanu's style is not great - he is rather wordy and his prose a bit "purple", but the meticulous construction of his stories makes them worth reading as exercises in plot alone. His clear love of the atmosphere he builds shows through, and it is refreshing to find a book in which the gothic is not played for laughs. Overall, this is a pleasing collection of stories with a few real highlights. Its atmosphere and style inevitably mean that it will not have much appeal to many people, but fans of the macabre and antiquated will find it a worthwhile purchase. Like Stoker's Dracula or a good Hammer film, it is highly entertaining, simultaneously chilling and slightly camp.
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