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on 5 November 2008
Edith Nesbit might be known as a children's author, but this selection is definitely not for the young or easily scared. The collection contains anthology stand-bys "Man Size in Marble" and "John Charrington's Wedding"- justly well-known classics, but for me "From the Dead" and, my personal favourite "The Pavilion" are even better. These four stories alone justify a five star review. The rest vary from the good to the merely competent.
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The stories in this collection are an engrossing, yet easy read, being between 3 and 15 pages long.
If the plot varies, they mostly have a similar narrator, similar casts of characters, and similar `threats' hanging over the key figures. The narrator is usually an educated male (it is a woman only in "The Shadow"), and the setting is the late Victorian or Edwardian period. Romance is involved, invariably with an idealised woman, although as events transpire supernatural events - usually entailing a ghostly appearance - threaten the chances for a happy marriage.

Somehow one of the couple will be imperiled by dark forces, and they find themselves facing death, madness or damnation. Without spoiling the stories, on several occasions people return from the grave (with dire consequences); other characters deliberately tempt fate by ignoring warnings of evil happenings. The result isn't just that someone finishes up dead, but love is unfulfilled and couples don't get to live happily ever after.

Nesbit's stories are not overly loaded with the sex symbolism of Stoker's contemporaneous Dracula. If three tales involve blood letting, in one, it is a male character who is bled to death in a supernatural encounter, in a second virgin's blood appears on a ghostly note, and the third only toys with hints of female vampirism. Still, Nesbit does repeatedly employ virginal women, handsome suitors, and forces of evil ready to pounce (that Lucy-Harker-Dracula triangle is often used).

Admittedly there is a blatant suggestion of sexual conquest by demonic figures in her first story "Man Size in Marble" - delete its very last sentence, and the entire tale takes on a very different and sexually suggestive meaning. "The House of Silence" is carefully built of brooding gothic symbols - a rose garden overgrown with clinging briars, a secret carved door, hidden treasure rooms, lost in a dark labyrinth, a pale green woman surrounded by swarming flies (it brings to mind the 1970s stories of Angela Carter, see The Bloody Chamber). And there are deliberate echoes of folk tales in "The Letter in Brown Ink" with its virgin imprisoned in a tower, lover in a garden, fearful hag, and supernatural means of communication.

Compared with today's horror writing these stories may strike some readers as tame. There is no gore, no violence, and sometimes you can see the final twist coming; nor are there any "femmes fatale" of today's gothic writing, Nesbit's women always being the virginal victims, not agents, of malevolent forces. But I did find her tales entertaining and well structured. A good read on a dark cold night.

(Thanks to Amazon for recommending the book. & P.S. the recently published Gothic Literature by Susan Chaplin is a worthy introduction to the field)
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on 9 February 2010
Great book, I've loved E. Nesbit's writing since I was a child. This book is a revelation, I had never realised that she wrote adult stories, this book has made me go out and research more of her writings for adults. Great writer, great book, well worth the money.
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on 15 February 2013
I had already read the more famous of the supernatural short stories in this book, Man Size in Marble, and enjoyed it, so I wanted to read more by the same author. The prose style is clear and direct, and horrible things happen and are described explicitly, where in other stories of the time & style there is more distancing and the protagnists may survive. People are living ordinary lives that are then destroyed, the innocent and the guilty are both struck down - simple but effective disurbing things happen that stay with you. I preferred to read this book in strong sunlight.
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on 27 January 2013
I was impressed with this collection and thought the author made an excellent fist of writing in this genre. I was aware of her more whimsical works of children's fiction and particularly the famous Railway Children, but did not know she also had a formidable track record in supernatural fiction. Some of the stories are genuinely spooky although I would have to rate her contemporary English writer, MR James he superior in chilling effectiveness. However her first story in this volume, the much anthologised Man-size in Marble, is up there with the best of such stories and is a worthy introduction to those unfamiliar with her work in this genre.
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on 22 August 2013
I bought this after hearing a short serialisation of E Nesbit's stories on Radio 4 Extra. I've read five of the collection so far and think they are genuinely spooky stories tinged with sadness. I find Nesbit's descriptions of landscapes particularly effective and even though these stories were written over a century ago her style feels fresh and engaging. Very impressed and haven't yet put the book down with a feeling of disappointment which I find can happen quite often when you're hoping for a good ghostly tale!
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on 19 April 2016
On downloading this book I was very disappointed to discover that the Kindle version contains just a single story "The Power of Darkness". The paperback contains 20 stories. Clearly in transcribing the book to the Kindle someone has become confused. The story itself is entertaining enough to make me want to buy the book.
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on 11 April 2011
I was familiar with some of the stories but enjoyed re-reading and discovering ones new to me. A word of warning, though - the best way to read them is to pick up, read story, leave a while, then repeat. The impact was lessened for me by reading the book in a couple of sittings.
Intrigued by the biographical information in the Intro. Very interesting and unexpected in places eg putting up with such a husband, her physical appearance etc.
Not a GREAT like M R James, though. The master of the slithering memory. Ghost Stories of M R James (Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural)
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on 6 April 2013
I have the paperback version of this book, and very good it is too. Edith Nesbit is a great storyteller. When I saw the Kindle version, showing exactly the same book cover, I decided to buy it to save my much-used paperback. What a disappointment! Whereas the paperback has 20 great short stories in it, the Kindle version has only one! So, if like me, your paperback has seen better days, don't waste your money on Kindle, buy another paperback. I feel quite cheated by this.
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on 31 May 2010
Well written stories with good plots and interesting (spooky) climaxes. Each story will keep your attention to the end, and the stories are not too long, so perfect to take on holiday for a quick read.
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