Monday, 10 October 2016

Review: The Travelling Bag and Other Ghostly Stories by Susan Hill

I've loved Susan Hill's ghost stories ever since I read The Woman in Black as a teenager. This little book contains four novella-length stories of about fifty pages each. The hardback version has a beautiful retro cover and would look lovely on any bookshelf. The stories themselves are set in different time periods, although these are not exactly specified. 

The Travelling Bag

One of those story-within-a-story tales. A paranormal detective sits in his club and recounts his most 'intriguing' case to a friend. This turns out to be the story of scientist Walter Craig, his rivalry with the more successful Sir Silas Webb, and of a mysterious travelling bag. 'It was at this exact point that there crept over me a sense of claustrophobia, and an increasing fear ... as I watched the man open the travelling bag.'

Boy Twenty-One

A sad little tale of a lonely schoolboy who finally makes a friend. Very poignant - although there is humour during the part where he and his schoolmates take a school trip to an ancient manor house - and appear to leave with one extra ...  'In the end, there was nothing for it but for everyone to say that Mrs Mills had had a long tiring day, perhaps wasn't feeling herself, and the bus left with the teacher seated at the front, with a queer, dazed expression.'

Alice Baker

A creepy story about a crumbling office block and the women who work there - including the very odd titular character. 'I could sense Alice Baker's presence but I could not see her. I smelled her though, a smell of mould and rottenness and decay, as if I had stumbled into an ancient cellar.'

The Front Room

One of those 'no good deed goes unpunished' tales, of a young family who kindly offer their spare room to an elderly relative - who then proceeds to make their life hell. 'The shadow stirred again, like a tree in the wind, but did not go. The silence was like the silence of deep snow.'

Out of the four stories my favourite was Alice Baker with Boy Twenty-One as a very close second. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves traditional, creepy ghost stories, but not to those who love their ghost stories to have non-stop shocks and gore. 

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