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Friday, April 24, 2020

Shelter In Place Reading: 'The Wimbourne Book of Victorian Ghost Stories'

Oh, yes. Come to meeeeee, my darlingsssssss... As you can see, I've been losing myself in this fantabulous collection of Victorian ghost stories lately. I bought the first eight volumes a couple of years ago and have been picking away at them when I felt like it, but now that I'm in the middle of a shelter in place situation, I've gone full steam ahead with them.

The collection is ongoing. As of now, there are sixteen books in the series, with the seventeenth in the process of being prepared for publication. And as you can well imagine, I absolutely love these books. Love them.

Oh, I don't read the books in order. There's one volume of ghost stories written by the heavyweights of Victorian fiction (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, J.S. Le Fanu, among others) that I can't get myself to read for the time being because the stories are all longer than the typical short stories in the other anthologies, and given the writers' style? Extremely dense reading that requires way more than I can realistically give for now.

But each book is thematic so that a few volumes are anthologies of ghost stories by Victorian women writers, and there are a couple dedicated to Christmas ghost stories. There's also a specific block of time that the editor considers when choosing the writers and their stories. For instance, one volume might be for writers active between 1835 - 1875 or something like that. And I think the best part of this collection is the fact that the vast majority of the writers whose works are showcased are obscure names, and so far my favorite volumes are the ones dedicated to Victorian women.

Of course a word of warning: given the nature of the time period and the American and British sources, be prepared for the few random expressions of casual antisemitism, xenophobia, and racism that was so rampant back then (not that the modern world's completely free of bigotry, mind you). Fortunately these moments are very brief (almost always just a quick phrase referring to a side character who also has a teeny tiny part in the plot), but they're also a characteristic of Victorian fiction from the white man's PoV that we modern readers should expect. At any rate, there's no avoiding them.

So I'm still missing volumes 9 through 16, and it's the kind of book shopping I'm looking forward to because each e-book is only $1.99, too. Booyah!

And speaking of ghost stories, this is the final weekend for the 99-cent e-book sale for April: The Amaranth Maze. When May rolls around, a new book will take its place, so if you're into some Victorian ghostly weirdness, check it out while it's available for a low-risk price.

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