Monday, January 9, 2017

Hugh Walpole: All Souls' Night

Last week I finished reading a book of short stories by Hugh Walpole called All Souls' Night. Walpole (1884 - 1941) was a popular writer during his time, but fell out of favor for being overly romantic and old-fashioned. For shame! The copy of All Souls' Night that I read was re-published in 2016 so I think poor, old Walpole must be making a comeback.

Walpole was known for his occasional "macabre" stories. All Souls' Night, considered to be a collection of macabre stories, was first published in 1933. Keep in mind that what was considered macabre then may be a little tame from what we read today, still, several of the stories were some of the best ghost stories I've read.

On of my favorites in the collection is "The Staircase." It tells the story of an awkward newlywed couple vexed by a jealous and frustrated sister from the viewpoint of the house itself. The house is a character in the story and in the end takes the initiative to set things right.
"Some houses are always hostile to their owners, having great unreasoning pride of their own and considering the persons who inhabit them altogether unworthy of their good fortune."
"Tarnhelm: Or, the Death of My Uncle Robert" relates the story of a young boy's Christmas holiday with his distant uncles and the unholy creature that torments them.

"The Oldest Talland" is the rather amusing and somewhat sad tale of a bored and overly talkative tourist trying to make an elderly and invalid witch comfortable.
"The Tallands had had strange tourists within their castle before, but never any tourist like this tourist. Mrs. Comber, so glowing with color, so voluble, so eager, froze them into silence."
"Mrs. Lunt" seems to me a story Poe could have written. It's the tale of a recently deceased wife who may be looking for revenge. The way the story builds to a crescendo is pure Poe.

"The Snow" is another story of a unhappily deceased wife who wants to take out the new wife. In this instance, it may be warranted.
"She was about to let her anger rise, her anger at his obtuseness, obstinacy, when some fear checked her, a strange unanalyzed fear, as though someone had whispered to her, 'Look out! This is the last time!"
There are 16 stories in this collection and while not all deal with ghosts directly, each of the main characters is haunted in some way. I like this collection very much and Walpole's style. I think I'll seek out two of his macabre-genre novels Portrait of a Man with Red Hair (1925) and The Killer and the Slain (1942). Do yourself a favor and get this collection to read before bed on a dark, winter night.

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