The Overcoat and Other Short Stories by Nikolai Gogol
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In this slender paperback book there are a series of short stories introduced by the esteemed author Nikolai Gogol. I am familiar with his work since I first encountered it in a Gothic Horror anthology, which featured a short story by him called 'The Viy.' I believe it is the finest work that I have read by Gogol thus far. The short stories in this book did not contain any horrifying tales of an elderly witch stalking the night for their next victim, but instead I read short snippets of marginally boring, run-of-the-mill lifestyles of everyday people in Russia. In these stories the reader will encounter drama stemming from two friendly neighbours that have a sudden disagreement over an old, long-forgotten gun and an elderly man that is brokenhearted after he lost the love of his life- his wife. In spite of the quotidian lifestyles of the main characters in Gogol's short stories, he still manages to exhibit a certain flair of artistry in his simple tales of life and love. Dripping black ink on a thin sheet of paper, the author Gogol is able to create images for the reader to fully visualize. His writing is exemplary and should not be so easily dismissed by other readers or critics of text from European writers in the twentieth century. I would highly recommend him to readers that are interested in reading stories that do not stem from the typical westernized culture (i.e. Britain or America).
My favourite story by far is the 'Overcoat.' Mainly because it contains a supernatural element at the very end of the book, an unexpected twist that left a whimsical smile upon my face. I do love a good ghost story! Anyways, I am happy I purchased this thin paperback at my local book store, although I will admit (with some reluctance) that it is not something that I will quickly re-read anytime soon.
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26 Brentwood Avenue and Other Tales by Katrina M Thornley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Are you a fan of chilling short reads? If so, you might enjoy Thornley's '26 Brentwood Avenue and Other Tales.' Each story is extremely short, and yet, it has an underlining spooky tale that generally has an ambiguous ending that leaves further questions for the reader.
My favourite by far is the first story 'The Strange Case of Cousin Felix.' The title reminded me of H.P. Lovecraft's 'The Curious Case of Charles Dexter Ward,' which is a favourite horror story of mine and one that haunts me often. Thornley's story is immensely shorter and is told by a somewhat unknown narrative that is a cousin of Felix. In the story we learn about Felix's eccentric ways and his love of entertaining large audiences at his family's estate. One evening, Felix announces to a crowd of people that it should be his last and that very night he suddenly disappears without a trace... or does he? As you can tell I do love a good mystery with an thrilling twist, so this one was right on the button.
Most of the dark tales in this paperback book featured supernatural creatures or objects that verged on the unexplained. For instance, the short story 'Claire's Mirror' reminded me of something from the Twilight Zone or a dark episode of Doctor Who. Random objects or strange people suddenly take on a malicious air when it falls in the hands of this author. Suddenly mirrors become a grave danger, or dark shadows at night can bring the main characters of the story to a tragic end; abandoned houses hold tragic secrets or tarot cards take on a whole new meaning when it falls into the hands of a certain young woman. In short, I enjoyed the first segment of this book titled 'Tales inspired by darkness.' The other two segments belong to a different genre that is devoid of dark, foreboding tales, which resulted in me having less of an interest for the remainder of the book (although the stories were still enjoyable to read).
All in all, the highlight of my weekend was me reading Thornley's short stories, especially the first few spooky tales that were featured at the front of the book. Anything with vampires and werewolves are an easy sell for me. I highly recommend this book to anyone that is a fan of fantasy, mystery or dare I say it... Lovecraftian horror.
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