Review: The Virago Book of Ghost Stories

Gathering together deliciously chilling tales from the three highly-acclaimed volumes of Virago ghost stories, this collection features stories by A. S. Byatt, Angela Carter, Charlotte Brontë, Antonia Fraser, Penelope Lively, Ruth Rendell, Edith Wharton, and many more. Here lost loves, past enmities, and unwanted memories mingle with the inexplicable as unquiet souls return to repay kindnesses, settle scores, and haunt the imagination. All of the writers demonstrate a subtle power to delight and chill at the same time as they explore the ghostly margins of the supernatural.

It took me forever to read this book, as I was reading it at a rate of a couple of stories a week for about a month and a bit. I’m still getting used to the short story thing, and I was writing and researching at the same time, which meant loads of crashing into bed at 3am and being dead to the world immediately. This equates to a phenomenally bad few months of reading!

I was really impressed with the majority of these stories. I liked how they were ordered chronologically, so that you could see the gradual changes in the ghost story style.

The real stand out favourite for me was “The Mistress in Black” by Rosemary Timperley, which I thought was absolutely phenomenal. It was the sort of short story that I wish I wrote. I have a feeling that I might write a wee story to add to it myself, I loved it that much… I want to fill in the blanks.

Antonia Fraser’s “Who’s Been Sitting in My Car” was pretty scary, and went wayyyyy beyond what I thought it would. “The Haunted Saucepan” was really quite fun, and A.S. Byatt’s contribution far better than I expected. There were a few stories that weren’t anywhere near the kind of standard I’d expect- I skipped two of them, one being “The Happy Autumn Fields”, as it was confusing and boring. However, only two really bad efforts in one collection is pretty decent, especially considering my relationship with short stories.

4/5 Stars

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11 thoughts on “Review: The Virago Book of Ghost Stories

  1. I would love to read more ghost stories, but the main issue I have is doing a lot of my reading at night in bed… Not so great for reading the scary stuff…..

    • I may be a hard arse when it comes to the ghosties, but none of them really scared me too much to sleep. Once my boyfriend touched my arm while I was reading a scary part and I did jump though!

    • I thought the array of authors was great! They had so many that I wasn’t familiar with, that I’m going to have to check out. It’s my very first Virago anthology, so it seems that I chose a good one… I was frankly just excited that it exists!

      Ps. Thank you for tweeting this ❤

  2. What a good range of authors and a good idea to present them in chronological order, too, that must have been really interesting. I’m way too feeble to read this but it sounds like a good recommend for my braver friends!

    • It’s not too scary, depends on your tolerance for scary things! I’m a massive wuss when it comes to violence and gore, but I do love a good ghost story.
      Yes, you could definitely see the transformation in tone from the old Victorian kind of story, to more modern concerns.

    • Me neither, but I’ve definitely gotten jumpy over one or two in this collection! I was pretty impressed, especially since it has such mixed reviews on Goodreads.

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