Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell

Hoo was this ever a good read! It's a collection of short stories: Disappearances; The Old Nurse's Story; The Squire's Story; The Poor Clare; Lois The Witch; The Doom of the Griffiths; The Crooked Branch; Curious, if True; and The Gray Woman. And at 10-50 pages (except for Lois which clocks in at 100+ pages) these are all a very manageable introduction to the Victorian style of writing. I probably should have started the year with this one instead of jumping right into Wuthering Heights, but, -ehn- I wasn't really sure about the whole 'short story' thing working out for me. Normally I find them more irritating than enjoyable because there just isn't enough substance for me to care about the characters or what they're doing. I feel like I'm just getting started and then it . . . ends !? Ugh, annoying. So, I kind of went out on a limb here, and with a beautifully creepy cover and a title like Gothic Tales who could resist? I also had a hunch that because Victorian authors tend to be wordy cram as much information into one sentence as is humanly possible, ramble extensively, go off on tangents, and carry on ad nauseam about irrelevant minutiae, their short stories might just be condensed enough to seem normal. Perhaps they could set a scene, develop a character, and get to the point in something less than Dickensian proportions. So, the short story! Who knew?

Victorian Literature Challenge - check
Gothic Reading Challenge - check

12 comments:

Susan B. Evans said...

Looks good! I'll have to add it to my tbr for the Gothic Challenge. I always enjoyed "classic" short stories (the ones I read for years in literature classes in college,) but have never found contemporary short stories that are any good at all. The art of the short story seems to have been lost somewhere in the past...

Sam said...

I've been getting into short story collections so far this year. I love the Victorian writing style, so this one has gonr on my wishlist.

Trish said...

susan - huh, yeah funny that. It's probably because the classic authors made such an art out of writing that they could craft an excellent short story.

sam - I hope you enjoy this one too!

Kerry said...

I swear, Gaskell has suddenly started appearing everywhere I look. I'll have to check this one out, sounds excellent. (And you're right that Victorian authors tend to cram a lot into sentences and ramble, etc, though I don't always find that a bad thing.)

Trish said...

I hadn't heard of Elizabeth Gaskell until last year and now I'm seeing her name all over the place too. Weird how that happens. And, yeah, the Victorian's wordiness is, if done right, can be an endearing thing.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I bought a book of hers recently - Cranford, I think? Like you, I had not read any of her work and then all of a sudden, I've been seeing her all over the place. I'm going to have to put this one on the list as well since who doesn't love anything Gothic?

Poppy Red said...

Gaskell's short stories are on my TBR list for this challenge as well. I've read Cranford, Mary Barton and Wives and Daughters by her and am looking forward to her more gothic side. May have to move it up the pile now after your rec. :)
Poppy.

Trish said...

coffee and book chick - gothic themes hook me every time!

poppy - same here, now that I've sampled her gothic side I'm curious about her Cranford side, which I've heard is everything but gothic.

Night Owl said...

I agree.. Gaskell's name does seem to pop up everywhere I turn. I have been meaning to read North and South at some point - which i think was made into a mini tv series. Cranford also looks like a good read.
Which of the short stories did you enjoy the most?

Trish said...

night owl - thanks for asking! I had meant to add more about each story when I wrote my post but somehow I was sidetracked and never got to it.

I liked The Old Nurse's Story because it had such good creepy Gothic elements with ghostly visions, stormy weather and dark cavernous mansions. But I also really enjoyed Lois the Witch too because it was longer than the others and was set in the 1600s during the Salem witch trials. I was disappointed that the title kind of gives the ending away, though. I got to really like Lois and wished that she wouldn't be declared a witch. But, oh well. It exposed the paranoia of the times, I guess.

The other stories were more odd than creepy. And The Crooked Branch was just plain sad.

Bookzilla said...

I know how you feel about short stories -- you're just getting into them and BAM, they're over. Lame. Victorian literature, though, is always fantastic.

Cover art is often half the reason I pick up a book in the first place. The cover of Gaskell's book certainly does draw one in, doesn't it?

Trish said...

bookzilla - I come over all weak in the presence of a lovely book cover. But, shhh don't tell publishers that or I'd be broke.