The Open DoorThe Open Door by Mrs. Oliphant
My rating: 3/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne Star

clocking in at 131 pages, this is the longest title in seth’s ghost stories for christmas series. however, its actual ghosty content is pretty minimal.

it could’ve been scary—hearing noises like sighs and a voice crying

“‘Oh, mother, let me in! oh, mother, let me in!'”

on your property would be pretty creepy, if there were no way to account for the voice, never mind the high-stakes terror of a juniper-bush [sic] that seems to change location in the dark of the night and disappear come morning.

but in this case, could’ve been is just a song by tiffany, and the story is well-written, but the horror is well-padded by a lot of…words.

I got home I don’t quite know how; but in my mind there was no longer any indifference as to the thing, whatever it was, that haunted these ruins. My scepticism disappeared like a mist. I was as firmly determined that there was something as Roland was. I did not for a moment pretend to myself that it was possible I could be deceived; there were movements and noises which I understood all about,—cracklings of small branches in the frost, and little rolls of gravel on the path, such as have a very eerie sound sometimes, and perplex you with wonder as to who has done it, when there is no real mystery; but I assure you all these little movements of nature don’t affect you one bit when there is something. I understood them. I did not understand the sigh. That was not simple nature; there was meaning in it, feeling, the soul of a creature invisible. This is the thing that human nature trembles at,—a creature invisible, yet with sensations, feelings, a power somehow of expressing itself. I had not the same sense of unwillingness to turn my back upon the scene of the mystery which I had experienced in going to the stables; but I almost ran home, impelled by eagerness to get everything done that had to be done, in order to apply myself to finding it out.

and while i actually love that passage and think it’s an astute and convincing observation i’ve never seen expressed before, it sure does take the long way ’round. moreover, there are several supporting-cast characters distinguished only by their class/profession and where they stand on the “ghost or not-a-ghost” argument, and it got a little confusing there in the dark, beside (or not-beside) the juniper-bush.

which is, i suppose, as it should be.

it may sound like i am not enjoying these books because i am being so critical-curmudgeonly about them, but i assure you—i am a fan of seth’s endeavor and design and even though i have been too galvanized by modern horror for the olde timey ghost stories to impress me, i am genuinely sad to be all caught up on the series (reading them, anyway—i still have to review The Old Nurse’s Story from last year), and i am very much looking forward to next year’s batch!

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