Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley
|Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Spine tingling stories within a story give an increasing sense of unease in this deliberately old-fashioned and literary book. Everything a junior lover of horror and the supernatural could possibly want. Splendid stuff.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: October 2008|
|Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC|
Edgar's parents are nice enough, but they are always distracted. They are certainly unimaginative. So, when in need of a story, Edgar braves the stares of the village children and the dark of the woods, and goes to visit Uncle Montague. Uncle Montague lives alone in a big, rambling, creaky house. Alone, that is, except for his manservant Franz, who brings trays of tea and cakes, but never actually enters the room.
Uncle Montague's house is full of artefacts and mementos. And each one seems to come with a rather creepy story attached. Uncle Montague is very good at telling these stories. And Edgar, despite the shivers, enjoys hearing them. On one particular visit, the stories are even more gruesome than usual. There are trees that do not like to be climbed, church benches inhabited by demons, doors into worlds from which you cannot escape. There are ghostly encounters, charms, hauntings and terrors. And from them, a pattern of young lives blighted begins to emerge, a pattern in which Uncle Montague is somehow, and dangerously somehow, involved.
I loved this series of stories within a story. They're deliciously Gothic and rather old-fashioned and literary in tone. They conjour up the kind of tension and uncertainty adults will find in The Turn of the Screw. Many of Uncle Montague's stories have ambiguous endings - although a horrible fate for the protagonist is never in doubt. The linking between them - the curious servant Franz, who is never seen, the forbidding woods outside the house, the evident discomfort of Uncle Montague himself - provide rising tension to add to the shivers. The different stories enable a plucking of every possible childhood nightmare - demons, ghosts, blood, gore.
It's all paced very well and each episode is fairly short, making the challenge of the florid, Gothic language approachable to younger children. Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror could suit a junior fan of horror of nine or so upwards, but could equally be enjoyed by an early teen, who wouldn't feel written down to. The illustrations are by David Roberts and they are just perfect - creepy, but also darkly humorous and very slightly surreal.
It's well-written, it's challenging but accessible, and there's enough terror to terrorise very happily indeed. The whole thing is beautifully presented. Bookbag thinks it would make the perfect present this Christmas for any child you know who actually looks under the bed to see if anything gruesome is lurking. There's one of those in this reviewer's house with a nose buried in it right now.
My thanks to the good people at Bloomsbury for sending the book. We also have a review of Priestly's Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth.
Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley is in the Top Ten Books For Children Who Love To Be Scared Silly.
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