Elizabeth Bowen – The Apple Tree
Hugh Walpole – A Little Ghost
L. P. Hartley – The Cotillion
Ann Bridge – The Buick Saloon
Algernon Blackwood – A Threefold Cord …
Arthur Machen – Opening The Door
Shane Leslie – As In A Glass Dimly
W. S. Morrison – The Horns Of The Bull
William Gerhari – The Man Who Came Back
Mrs. Belloc Lowndes – The Unbolted Door
Oliver Onions – “John Gladwin Says”
Philip MacDonald – Our Feathered Friends
Cynthia Asquith – “God Grante That She Lye Stille”
Originally published in 1931 I stumbled across this 1963 reprint in a small, scruffy animal charity shop recently. I obviously recognised the name gracing the cover from her other books that I have here and a glance inside showed a line-up as tantalising as it is obscure.
The book begins with Elizabeth Bowen's 'The Apple Tree', a story of grief and remorse made manifest in the form of the titular tree. It's a moving piece but one that suffers at it's conclusion for an attempt at an enigmatic ending. Such is not the case with Hugh Walpole's ' A Little Ghost' which is the story here I'm most familiar with and one I like very much indeed as two lonely souls find solace in each others company.
It's followed by the other story that I've previously read, Ann Bridge's 'The Buick Saloon'. With it's story of colonial heat and repressed emotions freed amongst the expats of Peking it's an odd little tale of curiosity and the thrill of the unknown that nevertheless stays much too much in the mundane for my tastes.
Never one for the mundane, globetrotter, author par excellence and bearer of the perfect ghost story author name, Algernon Blackwood provides us with 'A Threefold Cord...' where a bachelor, bewitched by a woman glimpsed at a party in his childhood home becomes drawn into events far beyond his control and fortunately discovers that friendship is more powerful than family.
Shane Leslie's 'As In A Glass Dimly' is a bit of a non entity sharing with Machen's piece a journalistic conceit it is a poor mimic that can only emulate the merest hint of the unease and imagination of its predecessor. W.S. Morrison's 'The Horns of the Bull' with it's folktale trappings feels particularly out of place and William Gerhardi's 'The Man Who Came Back' is a short, witty but essentially see-through read.
The book ends with it's longest story by Asquith herself - editors privilege. 'God Grant That She Lye Stille' is the story of a country doctor, his beautiful patient and her malevolent ancestor. It's an engrossing read that made me desperately need to shout instructions at the ineffective (understandably but frustratingly so) Doctor as his patient slowly slips through his fingers.
I am so very pleased to have found this book. I very much like these ghostly anthologies but every know and again one appears which just stands out as having been assembled with real care and insight and this is definitely the case here and any effort to track a copy down would be greatly rewarded in the reading.