Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
My wariness about reading short stories is that I usually just find them less satisfying than a full novel, feeling as though the ideas aren’t fleshed out enough or that I don’t spend enough time with a character to really care about them. That absolutely wasn’t the case with this collection. I was astounded by how much Mosse has packed each tale. Although the style of the writing is constant in a lot of ways, each story has a distinct tone and atmosphere (perhaps because this is a compilation of stories rather than a collection all written at the same time). The Revenant is set in Sussex 1955 and somehow it just feels…right and completely different to The Drowned Village, say, that is set in Brittany in 1912. I even found myself engaging with characters over a short space of time. The last story in the collection, Ghost of Christmas Past is a mere 7 pages long and I welled up as I was reading the last page.
|The Mistletoe Bride.
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What I particularly like about the way this collection has been put together is that each story starts with an illustration panel that perfectly set the scene and concludes with an ‘Author’s Notes’ section, giving some background on where Mosse got the inspiration for the story or what she was trying to evoke. The titular story, The Mistletoe Bride, for example, starts with the eerie image on the right and finishes up with a note detailing how Mosse was inspired to write the poignant story by a version that she had read as a child in a book of folklore owned by her parents. Some are inspired by beautiful historic buildings that she has visited or places that intrigued her as a child. Even if you aren’t at all interested in the background to the stories, the notes are pretty handy pointers of where to look if you want to read more about the featured folklore or myth.
If I had one (very minor) criticism, it would be that the ghostly thread linking the stories can make them feel a little predictable if you read too many all in one go. I found that up to three at a time was about the right dose. For the most part, these are ghost stories and chain reading just made me feel like I was playing a game of ‘Spot the Ghost’. Niggle aside, these really are perfect for spreading over a few frosty nights where you don’t mind the occasional chill up the spine.