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The Haunted Hotel & Other Stories [by Wilkie…
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The Haunted Hotel & Other Stories [by Wilkie Collins]

by Wilkie Collins

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This collection of supernatural tales begins with the novella of the title, The Haunted Hotel. Contrary to general opinion, I didn't think much of it; all the characters appeared like caricatures of themselves, especially the Countess Narona, and her nemesis, Agnes Lockwood; the villainess is portrayed as too evil, her counterpart as too good and saintly to be wholly believable. I found the entire set-up too overblown, the dialogue too pompous (no doubt that the Victorians loved exactly the drama of it), and the climax in the hotel bordering on the ridiculous. I'm afraid I could never engage with any of the characters, and the inevitability of the plot unfolding left me cold. I'm surprised to see that it's regarded as such a classic.

I'm afraid the other short stories included in this anthology (The Dream Woman; Mrs Zant and the Ghost; Miss Jeromette and the Clergyman; Blow Up with the Brig!; Nine o'Clock; The Devil's Spectacles) aren't much to write home about either and follow pretty much the well-known formula, no surprises there or much room for characterisation. The two exceptions are the rightly famous A Terribly Strange Bed, and The Dead Hand. The Terribly Strange Bed must surely be one of Wilkie Collins' best-loved stories, rightly celebrated for its daring originality, and reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe. The Dead Hand starts in a similar way, turning an innocuous and familiar situation on its head and infusing it with terror; unfortunately the whole story is then let down by one of these truly incredible coincidences that the Victorians seemed to have been so fond of.

One for collectors and connoisseurs of the genre. ( )
  passion4reading | Jul 16, 2012 |
A collection of nine stories with varying degrees of supernatural creepiness. The title story is a neatly unfolding crime mystery with a convincingly chilling atmosphere; although it lacks something of the character of Collins’ better novels, it is easily interesting enough to keep the reader involved.

Of the eight shorter stories, several rely on coincidence rather more heavily than Collins’ straightforward mysteries seem to – or perhaps coincidence is simply more obvious in a shorter setting – but there are one or two gems in here that absolutely must be read by fans of gothic, Victorian or supernatural literature. I speak of The Devil’s Spectacles, the last and shortest, most particularly, if only because the premise is so bizarre at the end of a book of straightforward ghostliness, that it made me sit up and gape with that worried happiness that applies when something gets under the skin of a hardened reader of creepy tales. Mrs Zant and the Ghost is lovely, and The Dream Woman, despite the singularly dull title, is one of my favourite short ghost stories by virtue of having a strongly written, if pitiable, protagonist.

Not the best collection in the genre, but far from being a waste of the reader’s time! ( )
2 vote eleanor_eader | Feb 12, 2011 |
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The Haunted Hotel -
A classic? I preferred A
Terribly Strange Bed.
(passion4reading)
A collection of
Supernatural stories
By Wilkie Collins.
(passion4reading)

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