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on 29 September 2010
Warning: this review contains spoilers.

It is difficult to categorise Oliver Onions as a ghost story writer. The subject matter of his stories is wide ranging. Some have a dreamlike quality and ambiguity (eg: 'Phantas' and 'Benlian'); some focus on historical events which leave an imprint on the present ('The Ascending Dream' and 'Dear Dryad'). Others deal with time slips '(The Rosewood Door') or possession by the spirit of someone from ancient times ('The Painted Face').

Onions style is poetical, though sometimes his language can be convoluted: "On the day after that she would be his wife, and they would come here to this house together, but in a sense closer and dearer than she could have expressed she felt that that other should have been her bridal, that no church had assisted at" (p198).

His stories take time to build; only in 'The Painted Face' did I feel that this approach didn't work - I found this story rambling and discursive. He is good at describing atmosphere and people: the sister and her three brothers in 'The Master of the House'; the moonlight illuminating the rooms in 'The Honey in the Wall''; a man looking back over the major events in his life whilst standing in a ruined church ('John Gladwin Says...').

I particularly enjoyed 'The Real People', a conflation of life and art, where real life characters imitate the fictional ones an author has created and 'The Rope in the Rafters' where a wounded soldier is both the haunter and the haunted.

Perhaps the most familiar story in the collection is 'The Cigarette Case' which was adapted for the Orson Welles short film 'Return to Glennascaul' with the setting transposed from France to Ireland. 'The Cigarette Case' starts off with a routine travelogue and then develops into something intriguing.

An impressively diverse collection of ghost stories.
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on 3 September 2010
Oliver Onions is a name I've been familiar with for years and I have read some of his ghost stories in various anthologies - most of which are hard to get nowadays. So it's great that Wordsworth have brought out this bumper collection (over 600 pages long). And even though it costs under £3 the production values for this mass market paperback are still first rate, with an easy to read font and a nicely atmospheric cover.

I guarantee any devotee of the genre will not be disappointed with this book. Onions is one of the masters of the ghost story, and stands alongside the likes of M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood. In fact, he is consistently far more reliable than Blackwood, who could frequently write some pretty boring stuff.
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on 9 September 2013
Having acquired a Kindle Fire, I downloaded a number of titles by 19th or early 20th century authors who specialised in ghost and horror stories. While you have to appreciate the style of writing, which might sound a bit antiquated to some readers, I loved the atmospheres conjured in these stories and the fact that they don't rely on the shock tactics of gore and violence, so often the staple of modern horror. The first story in this collection, 'The Beckoning Fair One', was a tale I've wanted to read again for decades. I'd come across it in an anthology years ago but couldn't remember who'd written it. There was a TV adaptation of it a long time ago too. These old stories won't be to everyone's taste, but I recommend them fully to readers who enjoy the work of M R James and his contemporaries.
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on 24 January 2012
First of all, I would like to commend Wordsworth for publishing great books at such affordable prices. The covers are decent, the pages do not rip off (I have bought their edition of The Karamazov Brothers, carried it with me everywhere and my copy remains in one piece) and their criteria of what to publish is outstanding. I recently became very interested in supernatural fiction but did not know where to start. So based on the reviews by other users I have bough a handfull (about 10) of titles from the Wordsworth "Tales of Mystery and The Supernatural" collection and so far I have not been faulted. M:R: James, Lefanu, Ambrose Bierce, E. Nesbit where some of the authors I bought from said collection. And as much as I have enjoyed every one of the authors I have mentioned, I was particularly impressed with Oliver Onions. To define his short fiction as "ghost stories" is rather innacurate and reductive, for they are very diverse and many times do not mention ghosts in the least. The scope and range of his stories is suprisingly diverse, as it deals with individuals with very different backgrounds, diverse preocupations and of stronger or frailer minds. The stories that refer to the inability of an artist to dissassociate with their creation and being engolfed by it (in a particular case, "merging" with it - or did he?-) are the ones that speak out the most to me- specially the thoroughly excellent "Benlian" and "The Beckoning Fair One". All in all, a great collection that features all of Onions supernatural fiction at a great price. It seems to me quite unfair how overlooked Onions seems to be. Benlian was definatly one of the best short stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading, I was completly blown away by it. I suggest that this book should be read without the anticipation of a "jolly good scare", but approached as a intellectual and cerebral experience that challenges one's beliefs - for your belief or not in forces beyond our comprehension will afect how you perceive most the stories. Higly recommended.
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on 8 December 2014
I bought this because I had read and been fascinated by * The Beckoning Fair One ", a very subtle and beguiling mood piece rather than a ghost story. I wasn't expecting cheap chills or a shock fest but I was dissapointed to be so bored by the majority of these stories. They were so whimsical and light as to all but float off in the ether. Walter De La Mare does this genre much better, also teetering on the edge of whimsy at times but with so much more resonance and depth to his characters
The only other story which had any impact on me and was worth the 3 star rating ,was the tragic " Rope In The Rafters " An insightful story in to what it is to be the haunter as opposed to the haunted. In this very original tale we see the poor disfigured and shunned war veteran's growing sympathy with the supposed ghost and his sad awareness of what will be his own posthumus fate as local boogey man.
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on 3 July 2015
Ok but some stories a bit hard going however at price paid still good value
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on 31 August 2014
As described, well packaged and promptly sent.
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on 11 June 2016
Brilliant stories! Really original.
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on 3 October 2015
very good
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on 30 November 2014
very good
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