The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales by Kate Mosse

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The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales by Kate Mosse

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A collection of haunting stories (in all senses of the word) from the author of the Languedoc Trilogy proving that even tight word limits are no barriers to talent. Just right for a Christmas present, but make sure you read it yourself before you wrap it!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: October 2013
Publisher: Orion
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1409148043

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This book of 14 short stories and a short play is based on the idea of haunting. Sometimes the haunting is the ghostly kind and sometimes something psychologically deeper and more primal. All the stories drift to us from different eras, both past and recent, but all have one thing in common: they centre on a troubled person. For instance we meet Gaston, a French child who witnesses an odd event on the beach just after losing his parents. In the inevitably touching but beautiful Red Letter Day we travel to a French castle with a woman who has an appointment with the past. If you want something completely different, there's The Duet which draws us into a fascinating dialogue and then hits us with a sting.

The stories vary in length from the atmospheric 36 page The Ship of the Dead (keep the lights on for that one!) to the charming 3-pager Why Yew Trees Live So Long. However length is immaterial as we're drawn into the moment and, in my case, the book is devoured in one sitting.

It sounds silly after saying that, but I picked The Mistletoe Bride up with as much foreboding as anticipation. You see I devoured all of Kate's Languedoc Trilogy (Sepulchre, Labyrinth and Citadel) and love her ability to spin a story out to such lengths while weaving such hypnotic tales (all three books being the size of house bricks). Therefore Kate has proved she writes exemplarily long but short is a different discipline altogether. No need to worry - not only are these stories enthralling, but each is also very individual and more poignant than scary so cowardly readers aren't ostracised.

This isn't the first time they've all been published as some of them have been seen in periodicals over the years and the poignant play at the end, Syrinx (commissioned by TV and radio's Sandi Toksvig no less) has become an Am-Dram staple. However this is their first time as a collection and, in some cases, Kate has primped and rewritten bits of the originals transforming them into something with which she's happier at this stage of her career.

One of the fascinating facets is that we can actually trace the history of the author's inspiration from these stories. For instance in The Yellow Scarf not only do odd things happen to a woman wandering around a castle but we see the roots of the timeslip ideas that will later find their way into her novels. In The Drowned Village her words transmit a love of the French and their folk tales that also reappeared in later work. Similarly in one of my favourites, The Princess Alice she blends real history with what-ifs, and not for the last time.

The second facet that impresses me is Kate's personal notes explaining the origin as they pre-empt or post-script each story. This works particularly well with the title story, a version of which most of us will have heard before (i.e. a game of hide-and-seek that goes badly wrong). However Kate's explanation of where the story began and its latter day derivatives adds a level of freshness.

These notes also acquaint us with members of the author's family like Aunt Margaret, the first woman to be ordained in her diocese. To these people Kate distributes the credit for inspiring her own creative process, showing us someone for whom success hasn't eradicated modesty or gratitude; a thought as warming as the notion of curling up with these short stories at Christmas once the little ones have gone to bed.

I'd like to thank Orion for providing us with a copy for review.

Further Reading: If you enjoy a good ghost story then we also recommend [[Tales from the Dead of Night: Thirteen Classic Ghost Stories by Cecily Gayford (editor)]].

Buy The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales by Kate Mosse at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales by Kate Mosse at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales by Kate Mosse at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales by Kate Mosse at Amazon.com.

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