#BookReview The Bone Flower by Charles Lambert

The Bone FlowerAbout the Book

On a November evening in Victorian London, the moneyed but listless Edward Monteith stokes the fire at his local gentlemen’s club, listening to stories of supernatural experiences and theories of life after death. His curiosity leads him to a séance, where he falls under the spell of a beautiful flower seller. But Victorian society does not look kindly on love between a gentleman of means and a Romani girl, and when he faces being cut off by his family, Edward makes a decision with horrifying consequences.

Two years later Edward is married and anticipating the birth of his first child, in a beautiful house lined with orange blossom trees. But the wrongs of the past are not so easily forgotten, and the boundary between the living and the dead begins to thin…

Format: Paperback (240 pages)               Publisher: Gallic Books
Publication date: 22nd September 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

The Bone Flower is a delightfully atmospheric and spooky story written in a style that deftly conjures up the period in which it is set. Edward’s passionate love affair with flower girl Settie ends in tragedy when he makes a misguided and disastrous decision. It’s one which will haunt him, not only because of his feelings of guilt and regret, but in another more literal sense, particularly after his marriage to Marisol and the birth of his son, Tommaso.

There are scenes in the book that could have come straight out of an M. R. James ghost story, and I mean that as a compliment. We witness the sort of small occurrences that might be laughed off in daylight but take on a whole different perspective when they occur at night: the distant sound of a child crying, a locked and shuttered window that repeatedly blows open or ‘a sort of shuffling noise’ heard outside a bedroom door as if a creature were feeling its way towards it. (I’m not sure if this was deliberate on the part of the author but there are a couple of names in the book that crop up in M. R. James stories.) There were also definite shades of Edgar Allan Poe; I’m thinking of his story ‘Ligeia’. And since my John Buchan radar is always on full alert, the opening scenes in the gentleman’s club in which the members swap stories, especially Rickman’s tale of his strange experiences in Africa, made me think of Buchan’s book, The Runagates Club.

A skilfully crafted Gothic mystery, The Bone Flower‘s combination of uncanny events, ghostly goings-on and story of forbidden love make it the perfect reading companion for autumn evenings.

My thanks to Isabelle at Gallic Books for my proof copy.

In three words: Chilling, atmospheric, mysterious

Try something similar: Printers’ Devil Court by Susan Hill

Charles LambertAbout the Author

Charles Lambert is the author of several novels, short stories, and the memoir With a Zero at its Heart, which was voted one of The Guardian readers’ Ten Best Books of the Year in 2014. His novel Prodigal was shortlisted for the Polari Prize for LGBTQ writing in 2019. Born in England, Charles Lambert has lived in central Italy since 1980. (Photo: Goodreads author page)

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Book Review: Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell

Gothic TalesAbout the Book

‘Such whispered tales, such old temptations and hauntings, and devilish terrors’

Elizabeth Gaskell’s chilling Gothic tales blend the real and the supernatural to eerie, compelling effect. Whether in ‘Disappearances’, inspired by local legends of mysterious vanishings which mixes gossip and fact, or in ‘Curious, if True’, a playful reworking of fairy tales, all the pieces in this volume form a stark contrast to the social realism of Gaskell’s novels, revealing a darker and more unsettling style of writing.

Format: ebook (347 pp.)    Publisher: Shandon Press
Published: 11th October 2016      Genre: Fiction, Short Stories, Horror, Classics

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My Review

Better known now for her novels, such as Mary Barton and Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell became popular in her own time for her ghost stories, aided by Charles Dickens, who published her work in his magazine Household Words.  The stories in this collection date from 1851 to 1861.

Like many short story collections, some of the stories are stronger than others.  I wouldn’t say any of them are particularly scary but in the best of them there is certainly an unsettling air and a sense of the Gothic.  Common features include mysterious disappearances, revenge in the form of curses inherited down through generations, family rifts, ghostly visitations, heroines in peril and gloomy manor houses or chateaux.

Stories I particularly enjoyed were:

‘Lois the Witch’ – in which the reader gets a bad feeling for the fortunes of the heroine, Lois, as soon as it becomes clear she’s headed for 17th century Salem and that not everyone is pleased to see her.

‘The Old Nurse’s Story’ – in which a ghostly presence roams the freezing Northumberland moors

‘The Poor Clare’ – in which an evil double, the result of a woman’s bitter curse, haunts future generations

‘The Grey Woman’ – featuring a full-on Gothic chateau, complete with dark passages and sealed off wings, and a husband of dubious moral character

Gothic Tales is a book on my Classics Club list and my book for the Classic Club’s October Dare which involved reading a book from your list that classified as thrilling, a mystery, Gothic or a book or author that SCARED you (because of its length, it’s topic, it’s reputation etc).

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In three words: Spooky, mysterious, Gothic

Try something similar…Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James

Elizabeth GaskellAbout the Author

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, née Stevenson (29 September 1810 – 12 November 1865), often referred to simply as Mrs. Gaskell, was an English novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. She is perhaps best known for her biography of Charlotte Brontë.

Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of society, including the very poor, and as such are of interest to social historians as well as lovers of literature.