2 November 2017

Eight Ghosts edited by Rowan Routh

I finished this book yesterday in the not-so-spooky atmosphere of a dealership's garage;  picture bright lights, a Kuerig machine churning out flavoured coffee, and a looping news feed on the television.  Mind you, paying for a set of new snow tires can bring about a mild case of the vapours....I digress.

Eight Ghosts is a compilation of stories written by well-known authors featuring English Heritage sites.  I've certainly visited a fair few during trips to London but have yet to encounter anything unexplainable.  Still, you can't help but conjure up an image of one of the original inhabitants treading along the floorboards, and you know someone in long silks or breeches has gazed out of a present picture window.

For me, four stories stood out from the rest.  Offerings by Andrew Michael Hurley, Kamila Shamsie, Jeanette Winterson, and Max Porter won't soon be forgotten and will be reread next year.  Hurley's story is vintage ghost story material full of eighteenth-century detail; a monkey in a cage adds an extra layer of darkness tinged with sympathy.  Shamsie blends the horror of two countries, and hooray for Winterson's ghost story featuring a gay couple and their nuptials.  Porter's story set at Eltham Palace made me smile because it brought me back to the gravel drive I walked on just last July...before things got strange and spooky.

Foreboding by Shamsie tells the story of Khalid, a night security guard at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire.  Being new to England, Khalid contemplates castles, why a Keep is called just that, and dismisses the idea of ghosts.  Coming from a war-torn country, his task of keeping trespassers away from the castle seems an easy and relaxing one.  During his shift,  Khalid's thoughts drift back and forth between life in his home country and the new opportunities ahead.  The differences being like night and day.  Looking around...'Nothing told him this like these ruins formed by time, not bombs'.  Then Khalid feels a chill in his bones, but it's quickly dismissed as he concentrates on the large sixteenth-century windows....next, a woman's voice plays in his head.....

Did they love the light or was there something in the darkness they were trying to keep at bay?

Waking up the next day in an attic room above a pub, Khalid feels a bit under the weather.  Back at work, in the staff kitchen at the gatehouse, an aroma fills the room.  It's slightly familiar, with a note of something rotting.  And that's where I'm going to leave you hanging because what happened next stirred a case of the heebie jeebies; anything more would spoil things for you. 

Proceeds from the sale of this book go towards the conservation of English Heritage sites across the country.  A worthy purchase and a very good cause.

6 comments:

  1. I read this recently and also found that four stories stood out from the rest, although some of the selection is different to yours. A nice collection.

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    1. Lovely of you to stop by, katrina! I'm wondering if this is something that will be pursued again next year? More stories, more sites.....fingers crossed.

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  2. Snow tires....oh groan. I keep putting it off, but my new-to-me-in-April car is demanding I get on it NOW.

    The thought is haunting me.

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    1. One of my colleagues mentioned that he waited until the first snowfall...with a lot of others...which then meant the first available appointment was over two weeks down the road (pun not intended). Get your tires on now, Susan!

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  3. That Shamsie story sounds very very appealing. Now to try to track it down.

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    1. It's excellent, Mystica! I attended a talk at the British Library last July with Shamsie taking part...she's wonderful to listen to. Good luck with getting your hands on this book!

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