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Ghost Stories of Edith WhartonIf a book could at once be chilling and cosy, that is how I would describe The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton. The settings of these tales will be familiar to Wharton’s readers: old New York, rambling country estates, wintry New England, and the Europe of American expats.

Moody and atmospheric, each story quickly drew me in, and I felt that wonderful, familiar pleasure in reading Wharton. But very soon, things begin to go off.

As I read, I grew tense and unsettled. While these are not horror stories, they leave you feeling creeped out and vulnerable. (I had to switch to lighter fare at bedtime.)

Wharton evokes the mysterious and supernatural. As she does to her characters, Wharton keeps the reader guessing about what is actually going on. These stories reminded me very much of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw.

Ironically, this ambiguity gives the stories a realistic, firsthand quality. You get that same tingle that you would when sitting around a campfire in the woods. Except in Wharton’s version, it’s a dwindling fire in the dark library of a “damp Gothic villa.” Wharton sets one of these villas in Irvington, New York—named for Washington Irving (famed for “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”). Wharton was also a great fan of Edgar Allen Poe.

In the book’s introduction, British crime writer David Stuart Davies explains that Wharton was at once terrified of and fascinated by ghost stories.

“I could not sleep in a room with a book containing ghost stories and that I have frequently had to burn books of this kind because it frightened me to know they were downstairs in the library.”—Edith Wharton, A Backward Glance

Perhaps this fascination with the paranormal has carried on into Wharton’s own afterlife? Her home The Mount has been the scene of many ghost sightings. They’ve even posted online gallery of spooky images and offer “ghost tours.”

I highly recommend this book. It offers all the joy of reading Edith Wharton, plus some very spooky moments. Said Wharton of a good ghost story:

“If it sends a cold shiver down one’s spine, it has done its job and done it well.”

She has achieved just that!

This would be perfect pick for a gift for Neil Gaiman’s #AllHallowsRead or as a scary read for the Halloween meme #Mx3 at Jenn’s Bookshelves.

NOTE: There are several collections of Wharton’s ghost stories. I chose the Wordsworth Edition (paperback; published 2009;  ISBN: 9781840221640) as it had the most stories. I also really enjoyed the forward by Davies.

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My review of Touch, by Alexi Zentner is a guest post as part of Murder, Monsters, & Mayhem.

“Stay off the ice,” wrote Alexi Zentner, as he signed my copy of Touch. I hadn’t yet read the book, so I didn’t understand that loaded and ominous warning…

Each day in October, Murder, Monsters, & Mayhem at Jenn’s Bookshelves features a chilling new post or book review to get us spooked for Halloween.

Click over to read my review of Touch and don’t forget to register to win a free copy!

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I don’t know why, but scary books freak me out more than scary movies. Maybe because the imagination conjures up the worst, but when you see it played out on film, you start to rationalize. That can take the thrill out of it. I remember gripping the armrest during one of the Jason films, as he started to impale someone  from under a bed. A sort of spear thing poked up out of the guy and blood spewed like a geyser … but then half the theater burst into laughter. Debunked (sorry for the pun).

Likewise, the mysterious earlier deaths in The Ring felt much creepier than the final scene. Spoiler Alert: the swamp creature thing didn’t work for me. “The Master of Suspense,” Alfred Hitchcock, was a big proponent of the unseen out spooking the visual. Even his famous shower scene in Psycho was a montage of cutaways (ouch, another one) of Janet Leigh’s grimacing face and blood running down the shower. Hitchcock wanted us to imagine the really gory stuff in our own heads. Just like when we’re reading.

For Spooktober, I’m taking part in Murder, Monsters, & Mayhem (Mx3)—a group read sponsored by Jenn’s Bookshelves. Mx3 is a celebration of spine-tingling books that include: ghosts, magic, monsters, suspense, murder, mystery, the supernatural, thriller plots, or anything just plan scary!

Every day, Mx3 features a chilling new post or book review to get us in the Halloween spirit (argh, not again). I especially liked reading about the lore of monsters and the human condition by Chelsea Quinn Yasbro, a Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award winner and author.

On Twitter, follow #Mx3 hashtag for spooky links and suggestions.

Book bloggers, add your scary and Halloween-themed posts to the Mx3 linkup.

I will be chosing among the books below to celebrate Mx3!

The Book of Lost Things—John Connolly

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton—Edith Wharton

Hallowe’en Party—Agatha Christie

The Mysteries of Udolpho—Ann Radcliffe

The Night Circus—Erin Morgenstern

NightwoodsCharles Frazier

Touch—Alexi Zentner
Reviewed as a guest post at Jenn’s Bookshelves.
What are your Halloween reads and scary suggestions?

Check out scary posts at Murder, Monsters, & Mayhem (Mx3)

Add your own scary post to Murder, Monsters, & Mayhem (Mx3) linkup.

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