Title: Ghostly: A Collection of Ghostly Tales
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Short Stories/Anthology
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I was given a copy of this book through Netgalley by the publisher, Scribner, in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!
It's fall, and you know what that means: rain, chilly nights, falling leaves, Halloween, Thanksgiving. But I'll be honest: Halloween is just my favorite holiday. I mean, candy? Costumes? Spooky movies and books? (Especially spooky movies and books!) It makes me feel like a kid again. Even now, at the age of 24, I still get excited for Halloween. And it's so much fun to get in the spooky mood with Halloween reads. Especially ones about ghosts. What's better near Halloween than ghosts?
This collection is edited and illustrated by Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry. I've read her first novel, and her second is waiting on my bookshelf. For the most part, I really enjoyed this collection, even though there were a few that were so archaic I couldn't really follow them very well.
The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe: 5 out of 5 stars. It wouldn't be a spooky story anthology without the king of horror himself! The narrator and his wife take in a black cat, as they both love animals, but cats especially. As the story goes on, the narrator begins believing that his cat is a supernatural force of evil, and the consequences of that madness are dire indeed.. Delightfully spooky!
Secret Life, with Cats by Audrey Niffenegger: 4.5 out of 5 stars. A story of female friendship, and old houses haunted by cats. I really enjoyed this one. The main character's friend leaves her a house shortly after passing away, and she discovers a gruesome secret when she stays a little bit too long.. This had a lot of black humor that I really liked.
Pomegranate Seed by Edith Wharton: 5 out of 5 stars. This story was more unusual because it was a domestic ghost story, with a wife suspecting her husband of having a secret affair when a mysterious set of letters, addressed to him, arrives. I really loved the ending of this story, and I will be looking for more of Wharton's horror fiction as soon as possible.
The Beckoning Fair One by Oliver Onions: 1 out of 5 stars. This would be one of the few tales I didn't like; the prose was so hard to follow it was difficult to ascertain what was going on in the story. I really tried with this one, but it just didn't gel with me. The parts I understood were scary, but most of it I couldn't figure out.
The Mezzotint by M.R. James: 4 out of 5 stars. A friend of the narrator, who works for the art museum of Cambridge, comes across a piece of art that needs to be identified, that just might be haunted. This story was creepy in that the prose slowly turned up the scary factor--I love an author that can scare in a subtle manner!
Honeysuckle Cottage by P.G. Wodehouse: 3.5 out of 5 stars. This story, at least at first, read to me more
like a reluctant love story than a horror story. But, as it went on, I
really enjoyed the creepy factor. James Rodman, a crime author,
discovers a young woman and her dog, and as the story goes on, the
infallible James finds himself falling in love with this pretty new
Click-Clack the Rattlebag by Neil Gaiman: 5 out of 5 stars. I first came across this story in Gaiman's newest book, Trigger Warning, so it was familiar. The thing about Neil Gaiman is that he scares readers in a way they don't often expect. The narrator, babysitting his girlfriend's little brother, gets told a scary story of darkness by the child, and ends up paying the price. Wonderful!
They by Rudyard Kipling: 2 out of 5 stars. This was creepy, most definitely. (I love stories where the ghosts are kids!) But the prose, from so long ago, was difficult to follow and understand, as I'm only familiar with The Jungle Book. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable.
Playmates by A.M. Burrage: 5 out of 5 stars. This story was particularly frightening. The main character's young ward begins to play with shadows, with invisible beings, scaring her benefactor and everyone else in the house. Again, I love dark, subtle humor, and this story hit the nail on the head in that aspect.
The July Ghost by A.S. Byatt: 4 out of 5 stars. This story really touched me on a personal level, as Byatt's own son died in a car accident. A couple begins seeing the ghost of a beautiful young boy, who appears when they least expect it, and it ends up tearing them both apart. This story really rang of loss to me, and it hurt me in the best kind of way. One of the best stories in the collection.
Laura by Saki: 5 out of 5 stars. This story was darkly funny and more than a little bit terrifying. Laura and Amanda, two best friends, are talking about dying, and hilarity, accidents, and terror ensue in rapid succession. This story is one of the reasons I love Saki.
The Open Window by Saki: 5 out of 5 stars. Again, this story is a contender for my favorite in the volume. A group of friends is waiting on a dark, rainy night for a set of their friends to come home. This was what I considered a story of 'classical' terror, and my favorite part was the ending. Amazing!
The Specialist's Hat by Kelly Link: 5 out of 5 stars. Oh, Kelly Link. Where have you been all my life? This is probably my favorite story of them all. Samantha and Claire, twins who live in a spooky castle, end up with a babysitter for the night. And when they find The Specialist's Hat, they discover that some of the ghost stories they've heard just might be true.. So delightfully spooky!
Tiny Ghosts by Amy Giacalone: 4 out of 5 stars. This story wasn't traditionally scary--in fact, it really struck me more as humorous. The main character, Angie, and her husband, discover their house inhabited by tiny, quite mouthy ghosts. This story was so funny, and I really enjoyed the ending.
The Pink House by Rebecca Curtis: 5 out of 5 stars. This story scared the pants off of me. It was so spooky. A woman is hosting a dinner party at her house, and she begins to tell a ghost story that is quite personal. I loved the subtly creepy feel of it, the way the hairs of the back of my neck. It was so raw and it felt real. Wonderful!
August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury: 5 out of 5 stars. This collection also wouldn't be quite complete without the father of science fiction. This story was definitely spooky, but it seemed to me that it was more a parable about the constant dependence of technology and its power to change our entire lifestyle. It was so scary, especially because it rings true of this day and age. The ending was perfect!
The bottom line: This collection was wonderful--a must-have for those getting ready for Halloween and any spooky story junkie! Next on deck: The Curiosities by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff!