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

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com 
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Gothic Tales on Goodreads


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).

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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.

Top Ten Tuesday: M. R. James Ghost Stories for Halloween

Top Ten Tuesday new

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

The rules are simple:

  • Each Tuesday, Jana assigns a new topic. Create your own Top Ten list that fits that topic – putting your unique spin on it if you want.
  • Everyone is welcome to join but please link back to That Artsy Reader Girl in your own Top Ten Tuesday post.
  • Add your name to the Linky widget on that day’s post so that everyone can check out other bloggers’ lists.
  • Or if you don’t have a blog, just post your answers as a comment.

TTT_Collected Ghost StoriesThis week’s topic is Halloween/Creepy Freebie.

I’ve chosen to concentrate on that doyen of the ghost story, M. R. James, listing eight of my favourite of his classic spooky tales – with a couple of bonus items thrown in.

All the stories – and many others – can be found in Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James, edited by Darryl Jones.


‘The Mezzotint’ – Gawdy’s revenge played out in the most remarkable way

The Visitor at Anningley HallThe Visitor at Anningley Hall by Chris Thorndycroft – a prequel to ‘The Mezzotint’

‘Lost Hearts’ – A reclusive alchemist’s obsession

‘The Ash-Tree’ – A cursed house

‘Number 13’ – Dancing in the dark

‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’ – “Who is it that comes”

‘Casting the Runes’ – The dangerous consequences of a bad review

Night of the DemonNight of the Demon – Classic 1957 film adaptation of ‘Casting the Runes’

‘The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral’ – “I find that I absolutely shrink from the dark season.”

‘A Warning to the Curious’ – Beware the guardian


M R JamesAbout M. R. James.

Montague Rhodes James, who used the publication name M.R. James, was a noted British mediaeval scholar & provost of King’s College, Cambridge (1905–18) & of Eton College (1918–36). He’s best remembered for his ghost stories which are widely regarded as among the finest in English literature. One of James’ most important achievements was to redefine the ghost story for the new century by dispensing with many of the formal Gothic trappings of his predecessors, replacing them with more realistic contemporary settings. (Photo: Goodreads author page)