The book is an anthology of ghost stories written by talented female authors of the 20th Century, including Edith Wharton, E Nesbit, Mrs Gaskell, Elizabeth Bowen, Angela Carter and Fay Weldon. Their talent ensures that as you read their stories the hair on the back of your neck stands on end and you are sitting on the edge of the seat as you wait to find out who and what the ghost is.
There is everything in this book from the more traditional ghost stories told around the fireside late in to the evening, to psychological experiments and manifestations. The ghosts are both real and imaginary. Some of the ghosts are human and some are not. Some are old and some are young. There are innocent victims, perpetrators of crime, disturbed men and women and of course there are haunted houses that are out to get their inhabitants. Some of the stories are written from the perspective of someone that is decidedly alive, and others are told from the perspective of the ghost themselves. If you are looking for variety, you will find it in the pages of The Virago Book of Ghost Stories.
The stories are collected in this anthology by Richard Dalby and his enthusiasm for the genre is very contagious. He has arranged the contents of The Virago Book of Ghost Stories in chronological order. This was a wonderful way to show how the ghost story has changed (or not changed) over time. I will admit to enjoying the ghost stories from the early 20th century that little bit more than the stories from the later 20th century. I think that this may be because the earlier the ghost story the more traditional it seemed to be. It could, however also be accounted for the fact that the book is quite long.
In the introduction to The Virago Book of Ghost Stories, Richard Dalby explains how hard he found it to cut the book down because of the sheer volume of quality ghost stories told by the talented female authors of the 20th century. In fact, I believe that there is a second volume, and that there is also The Virago Book of Victorian Ghost Stories. Although I don't doubt that it would have been extremely difficult to limit the number of stories to include in the anthology, I thought that there were a few too many and that I was ready to move on to another book before I had read all the stories it contained.
Despite that, Richard Dalby's The Virago Book of Ghost Stories was a mesmerising collection and has not dulled my enthusiasm for a good ghost story (click here to read more about my personal enthusiasm for the ghost story).
Two Questions: 1. Do you enjoy ghost stories? and 2. Do you enjoy reading anthologies?