September 03, 2007

Short Story Sunday(on Monday)

So my first Short Story Sunday is on a Monday. Late by one day; the story of my life. But to make up for being tardy I will review 2 ghost stories for ya.

The Lady's Maid's Bell
by Edith Wharton

That title feels awkward to my mind. Is that just me? Anyway. It is the tale of Miss Hartley, a lady's maid in a new position for Mrs. Brympton. While there are a few peculiarities, Miss Hartley is satisfied in her new position until she hears that no maid has stayed on at the Brymptons' for more than a couple of weeks. Later that night she is to learn why; the ghost of a former and beloved lady's maid that appears when the bell is wrung. What happens in the end may leave you a bit dumbfounded.

There is a climax at the end of the story but it can leave some in a state of confusion as to what exactly took place. I was not confused but neither was I scared. What I was was enthralled by the writing. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you will know my unending love for Edith Wharton. She might be classed as my favorite author. If not favorite then at least in the Top 3. She gives just enough detail to capture your imagination without causing a lull in the storytelling. You feel like you have enough information to draw the correct conclusions about a character's personality. Of course, her characters in her shorter stories will not have as much depth as in her novels but that is to be expected. It didn't interfere with this story. It may not be for everyone but I was satisfied.

To Be Taken with a Grain of Salt
by Charles Dickens

I like to visit the local Salvation Army about once a week to scour the book aisle. I rarely come home empty handed. This week's visit proved productive as usual. I picked up a copy of Great Ghost Stories, a thin Dover Thrift Edition with a variety of authors. Dickens being another of my favorites, and the only name I recognized, I started with his story first.

The protagonist is telling the story of the trial of a murderer that he(said protagonist) is the Foreman on the jury for(talk about awkward!). He is not telling about the trial as much as explaining the mysterious ghostly appearances that lead to the verdict.

I was glad this story was short because the details would have been overwhelming in a longer format. He gives a piece of useful(or unuseful) information and then qualifies it. He does this for just about every bit of information he shares. It makes it a bit tedious. But in the end there is a shiver-down-the-spine moment that makes it worth the 10 minutes it takes to get to the end.

This is a fun addition to the regular challenge for the RIP II Challenge. I do like short stories, though I don't read them all that often. They are great for reading while the children are up and running around as I don't need too much time to get through them. And this also works on fulfilling a read for the Reading the Author Challenge, Edith Wharton being my author of choice. So far, so good!


Carl V. said...

They both sound great. I've read some Dickens short stories, but I am not sure that I have read that one.

I am also unsure as to whether or not I've read any Wharton. I need to remedy that, obviously, if I haven't.

A real good start to short story Sun/Monday. ;)

Eva said...

That Dover collection sounds like fun! I read two ghost stories for this week as well. :) (and got them posted exactly sixteen minutes before Sunday ended, lol)

I love Wharton as well, and I plan on having an ongoing project next year of reading Lee's bio along with more of Wharton's works (I've only read the super famous ones-House of Mirth and Age of Innocence).

Petunia said...

Carl-thanks for the encouragement. I found another halloweenish book. It's called Poems Bewitched and Haunted. Looks fun!

Eva-I have only managed to read about 250 pages of Lee's biography of Wharton. Boy does she go into detail about every aspect of life! But it has made reading Wharton fantastic to know all the background.

Cath said...

The Signalman is another excellent ghost story by Dickens if you haven't already read it. Very atmospheric.

Some years ago I read a lot of Edith Wharton's ghost stories and I know I loved them but can't now remember individual titles. I do have a lovely little book, To Be Read By Candlelight, and all it consists of is two ghost stories by EW - The Eyes and The Triumph of Night. Time to get it out and read it perhaps.

Enjoyed your reviews.

Carrie K said...

Well I was deeply confused by that story and not at all scared. So what actually happened? This is the one where the maid goes to the neighbor's house, right?

I love her writing and the stories were all entertaining but I couldn't quite translate the mores of the time.

Petunia said...

Thanks for stopping in Cath. I haven't read any other Dickens stories yet but I hope to soon.

Carrie-I will answer on your blog so I don't give any spoilers out here.

Trish said...

Sound good--I'm doing the short stories for RIP II as well. I love ss, but for some reason seem to forget about them. I loved reading a few earlier today, though! I haven't read any short stories by Dickens (or anything by Wharton)

Petunia said...

Trish-I know exactly what you mean about loving them but never thinking about them. For a slow reader like me you'd think I would read them more often.

Marina said...

You've made both stories sound really interesting... maybe I'll get to read them someday.

Bookfool said...

I missed Sunday completely; Monday seems just dandy. Yes, that first title does sound awkward. I've only read The Age of Innocence by Wharton but it's on my mental all-time favorites list. What else would you recommend?

Both sound terrific.