Hey guys, and welcome back to The Book Reviewer! As promised, here is Part II of my Folio Ghost Stories series.
Released in 2015, The Folio Book of Ghost Stories contains 19 stories, including works by E. F. Benson, W. W. Jacobs, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Charles Dickens.
In this week’s post, I’m going to be looking at the following spooky tales: August Heat by W. F. Harvey, The Demon Lover by Elizabeth Bowen, and The Axe by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Hope you enjoy!
August Heat by W. F. Harvey
‘But the heat is stifling. It is enough to send a man mad.’
August Heat was first published in Midnight House and Other Tales in 1910. It is told from the perspective of James Clarence Withencroft, a 40-year-old mediocre artist, presumably hours before his death.
Having sat in the stifling August heat, Withencroft finds himself sketching hurriedly, the end result depicting a large, sluggish man in a dock. Although unsure as to why he has created such a piece, he thinks nothing more of the criminal scene – that is until he finds himself meeting the man he has drawn. Confused, he chats to the man, noticing he is a stonemason. And one gravestone, in particular, catches his eye…
Interestingly, August Heat does not feature ghosts, yet is consistently considered a ghost story for its use of subtle premonitions.
It will certainly leave you with an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach.
The Demon Lover by Elizabeth Bowen
Thought provoking throughout, and yet abrupt in its conclusion, The Demon Lover delivers a foreboding and sinister story. Returning to her London home after the bombings, Kathleen has to deal with the fact that failed promises can have severe repercussions.
Bowen’s The Demon Lover is said to be inspired by a popular Scottish ballad (The House Carpenter), in which a man (/ the Devil) returns to find his former lover with a new husband and baby. However, the ballad’s eerie narrative is transposed by Bowen and placed in wartime London.
The Axe by Penelope Fitzgerald
Published as a runner-up in The Times Anthology of Ghost Stories (1974), Fitzgerald’s The Axe takes a steady dive from everyday office politics to ghost pandemonium. Structured as a letter to an unnamed higher-up in the company, Fitzgerald’s ability to make a modern, mundane setting disturbing is second to none. It is both humourous and eerie in its approach.