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This review is from: Dark Entries (Paperback)
Robert Aickman is an author perhaps known more for his influence upon other writers than for his own work. His stories - dark, disturbing, elusive and brilliant - have for many years been difficult to obtain. In the past if you wanted to read Aickman you had a choice between raiding the second-hand bookstores and hoping for the best or else shelling out for a deluxe edition of his tales. Hopefully this new series of publications by Faber and Faber will return his work to the limelight it so richly deserves.
Dark Entries contains six short stories, each one different to the last but all equally strange and dazzling. What I love about Aickman's tales is the way he sets up an intriguing situation and then adds layer upon layer of rustling unease. In 'The School Friend' for example, Mel finds herself looking after the house of an enigmatic friend, Sally, and wondering why all the rooms are kept locked and why the library appears to have been bizarrely reinforced to keep something out. Or is that rather to keep something in? Other stories are similarly odd. In 'Choice of Weapons' a man goes to dinner with his girlfriend only to become besotted with a young woman at another table - so much so that he dashes after her when she leaves and, upon visiting her house, finds himself strangely expected. In 'The View' a weary civil servant finds himself in a strange house, painting the landscape he sees from the grounds which, oddly, appears to alter every time he looks up from his canvas. 'Bind Your Hair' has an air of pagan mystery and the creepiest pair of children since Henry James's 'The Turn of the Screw' while 'Ringing the Changes' tells of newlywed visitors to an off-season seaside town where the church bells ring loudly enough to wake the dead. Possibly literally.
Aickman was a great stylist, his prose elegant, clipped and measured. The stories abound with striking images - my favourite being in 'The School Friend' where heavy rain running down a window is described as having the appearance of melted wax. The characters are enigmatic and the settings endlessly intriguing. Occasionally I was reminded of Daphne du Maurier's short stories - Aickman and du Maurier both had a gift for portraying the commonplace suddenly wrong-footed by the surreal and the macabre.Also both were blessed with a prose style that positively purred.
In conclusion if you were interested enough to read this review I really would recommend you pick up a copy of Dark Entries straight away. If you like the delicious thrill of the supernatural, the haunting and the unexpected Aickman is most definitely for you. As this collection demonstrates he really was one of the very best when it came to disturbing, macabre, brilliant tales.