Halloween Reads 2010

I’ve decided to do a little “medley” of my Halloween Reads this year.  As I have grown older and wiser (?) I have moved away from horror and thrillers whether in literature or film – I’ve become so chicken I can’t even go on roller coasters any more!   Therefore this selection probably only rates about 5-6 on the average reader’s scareometer but is scary enough for my fragile disposition… ;-)

Firstly my favourite of the bunch, The Small Hand by Susan Hill which is one of the most attractive books I own.  Okay I know that beauty is only skin deep, never judge a book by its cover etc etc but who could fail to be enchanted by this small but perfectly formed volume..

Here, Susan Hill succeeds in cranking up the tension in another chilling tale.  Antiquarian bookseller, Adam Snow discovers an abandoned Edwardian house and experiences a supernatural moment when his hand is grasped by that of a small child.

…we stood for a time which was out of time, my own man’s hand and the very small hand held as closely together as the hand of a father and his child.  But I am not a father and the small child was invisible.

I love the way suspense is gradually built up, the increasing sense of unease as the small hand changes from something comforting to a menacing and threatening entity which permeates Adam’s very existence.  There are little clues here and there that this tale is set in the present day, such as allusions to the internet and air travel, but the style and ambiance are distinctly gothic and ethereal.  This story begs to be read aloud around an open fire on gloomy autumnal nights – or tucked up with your electric blanket!   Fans of M R James, gothic tales and those who love subtle scary stories will enjoy The Small Hand.

My next ghostly encounter was with the illustrious M R James whose collection of creepy tales has been lingering on my shelves waiting to pounce for several years now…  James is considered to be the master ghost story teller and he really has a deft hand when it comes to creating suspenseful scenarios which can scare the wits out of the reader by suggestion rather than in your face gore. 

I read all of the tales in a couple of sittings but it would probably be a more satisfying reading experience to spread them out a bit and read them over a couple of months as they can seem quite samey after a while. 

My favourite story was The Haunted Dolls’ House not only because of the terror inspired by the narrative but also because of my phobia of china dolls, you know the kind whose eyes follow you around the room…  Another of my favourites was Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad whose title actually sounds quite friendly but oh no, there is menace lurking in the wings.  I found myself wanting to shout at the protagonists – “No, don’t go into that cellar/church/crypt/cupboard!”.

If you like to be thrilled in a subtle, sophisticated way then M R James is the man for you.

My last ghostly read before Halloween is upon us, is a teen read, Heretic by Sarah Singleton.  It’s not really a scary read but a very atmospheric piece of historical fiction set in England in 1586.  Elizabeth finds a strange green creature in the woods – this turns out to be Isabella, a young girl who has been trapped in the faery world for several hundred years.  The girls have something in common, both have faced persecution, Isabella in the 1200s when her mother is tried as a witch,  Elizabeth for being of the Catholic faith.  What unfolds is an exciting tale as Isabella tries to help Elizabeth’s family escape the fate dealt to her family in the distant past.

More a teen rather than a cross-over read, I did enjoy my first experience of Sarah Singleton’s writing and look forward to reading Century which won the Booktrust Teenage Prize in 2005.  A great read for those who love all things faery and fans of Michelle Harrison’s Thirteen Curses/Treasures novels.

I’ve really enjoyed my Halloween selection this year and I think I will seek out some more Gothic tales to while away the dark and dreary evenings this Winter.

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  1. Jessica says:

    I read the Small Hand on Holiday and enjoyed the tale. I think I love the tiny cute book more though LOL

  2. admin says:

    Tis indeed a thing of beauty, Jessica! I wonder if there’s a similar version of The Woman in Black so I co-ordinate the two…dreadfully superficial of me, I know! ;-)

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