Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Old Nurse's Story (1852): Short Story review

 Call this my "accidental" Women In Horror month contribution.  I really would have loved to participate, but I am too lazy and disorganized.  Plus, all my free time lately has been taken up with my new Blu-ray play and the magical gift that is "Netflix Instant Streaming."  All I really have time for is short stories.  Thank goodness I came across "Victorian Ghost Stories" edited by Michael Cox (hehe) and R.A. Gilbert.  I think I am moving into a ghost phase.  Zombies are just becoming too mainstream.  (Just kidding.  Zombies are and will always be my first horror love.)  The first story in this anthology (and one of the shortest) is "The Old Nurse's Story" by Elizabeth Gaskell.  Gaskell was quite the accomplished writer.  If you love PBS and Dame Judi Dench you are probably familiar with "Cranford", which Mrs. Gaskell wrote.  This Victorian ghost story was written in 1852 and has everything you could ever want in a ghostly tale: old crumbling mansion, orphans, storms, closed off sections of the house, two mysterious old women, odd, nervous servants, an absent Master, creepy organ music, ghost children, family secrets, murder, betrayal, and guilt.  I know, it sounds like a really awesome Mexican Telenovela. 

Besides being pretty good looking and really damn talented, Mrs Gaskell was a FOD (Friend of Dickens.)  He actually wanted her to change the end of this story, but she stuck to her guns and it was published as she intended.  It has a very interested ending, where living people see the "ghosts" of their younger selves, and are forced to relieve their most awful deeds.  In some ways it reminds me of the film The Others, in that it is not only the ghosts that haunt the house, but also the memory of the awful deeds that were committed within. 

This nice little anthology has quite a few ghost stories written by women and I am looking forward to being kept up all night.  If you would like to read "The Old Nurse's Story" you can check it out here:

1 comment:

Shamus said...

I recently picked up the collection of Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost stories at a library book sale. Just this evening I finished reading this story and loved it's atmosphere. With a little fleshing out of the characters it could make an interesting film. That being said there's nothing like actually reading a ghost story for chills.