“Won’t somebody think of the children?”
Yes, somebody will.
Halloween is coming and if you and your children haven’t read Bunnicula, you’re missing a literary treat.
Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery, is a children’s book by James Howe and Deborah Howe, featuring a rabbit that sucks the juice from vegetables. Could he be a vampire bunny? Harold, dog to the Monroe family, isn’t sure, although the family did give him that strange name since finding the bunny at the theater where they’d gone to see a Dracula movie. Chester, the Monroes’ cat, is convinced Bunnicula is a vampire and tries to get Harold to help him save the family from danger. The story is dryly witty and the illustrations are great fun. (And there are six more books in the series.)
Think of the children and read a wonderful book together during this Halloween season.
To win a signed copy of each of my three Wisdom Court books, comment on this post. A drawing to determine the winner will occur on October 31.
One of the inspirations for my Wisdom Court novels is this 1942 novel written by Irish author Dorothy Macardle. It’s a thumping good ghost story that was later adapted to film in 1944.
In this January 9, 2016, review in the Irish Times, author Anna Carey provides an interesting feminist slant to an old form: the haunted house novel.
Macardle, like many other Republican feminists, was appalled by the decision to enshrine the domestic role of women in the Constitution. So perhaps it’s not surprising that, a few years later, she wrote an excellent novel that shows just how unhealthy it can be to idolise women as pure domestic goddesses.
First published in 1942, Uneasy Freehold has been reissued as the second in Tramp Press’s brilliant Recovered Voices series, The Uninvited (its American title). In it, two Anglo-Irish siblings, Roddy and Pamela Fitzgerald, find an enchanting house for sale in Devon called Cliff End. But when they make enquiries about purchasing it, the owner tells them that it’s been empty for 15 years.
Its previous residents were the owner’s daughter Mary, her artist husband Lyn, their small daughter Stella, and Lyn’s model and mistress, Carmel. Mary and Carmel both died tragically at Cliff End, and Stella was brought up by her grandfather. Six years earlier, a couple lived there, but left after having “experienced disturbances”.
Roddy and Pamela are undeterred, but once they’ve moved into Cliff End strange things start to happen. They hear a woman sobbing and see mysterious lights. And then a mist appears, a mist that looks very like a woman with cold blue eyes.
Who exactly is haunting the house? And what does this spirit want with Stella, now a young woman who yearns for the perfect mother she never really knew?
Stella’s fascination with Mary allows Macardle to explore the dark side of the blind veneration of a saintly mother figure. Stella’s bedroom is a Marian shrine – in both senses of the word: “Pale blue walls – her mother’s favourite colour . . . Mary’s pictures – Florentine madonnas; a sketch of Mary as a girl and before it, in a glass vase, one white rose; even a statuette of her mother – a white plaster thing. It’s a culte. Oh the piety, the austerity, the white virginal charm!”
Macardle shows how limiting this cold ideal of virtue can be – and how long its unhealthy effects can linger.
Of course, the ultimate test of a ghost story is whether it’s scary or not. And while The Uninvited is enormously readable and full of nicely spooky moments, it rarely produces the sort of creeping dread triggered by, say, Elizabeth Bowen’s The Demon Lover. This is mostly because the moments of terror are generally balanced by the characters’ sensible and thoughtful discussions of what might be causing them. This may sound tame, but turns The Uninvited into a different yet equally enjoyable ghost story.
Pamela and Roddy become not just the victims of a haunting, but amateur sleuths determined to unearth the source of the mysterious incidents at Cliff End. They put together a dossier on the previous household and bring in friends and experts to help them. I was not surprised that Roddy, putting off writing a book review, wondered “how on earth was I to give my mind to Peter Wimsey and his mysteries while our own diabolical problem was crying out to be tackled?” There’s more than a touch of Wimsey-creator Dorothy L Sayers’s wit and inventiveness about The Uninvited.
In fact, the dark subject matter and the complex issues explored by Macardle, combined with the engaging characters and light touch, make The Uninvited one of the most entertaining Irish novels I’ve read all year.
When de Valera was asked for his verdict on the 1944 film version of The Uninvited, his response was: “Typical Dorothy”. I hope she took it as a compliment.
Anna Carey’s latest novel is Rebecca Is Always Right
Comment to be entered in the Halloween drawing. A signed copy of the Wisdom Court Trilogy: Edge of the Shadow, A Signal Shown, and All In Bad Time, is the prize.
I have had ongoing, low-level respiratory crap (medical term) for at least a month and today the bug responsible is staging a resurgence, rolling out more coughing and wobbly-headed paranoia. It’s time to revisit The Stand.
In case you’ve never read it, it’s set in a post-apocalyptic America after a majority of the world’s citizens have succumbed to a weaponized superflu virus known as “Captain Trips.” When the dust settles, groups of survivors begin to journey west, compelled to gather in…Boulder, Colorado, my home town! Those are the good-guy survivors, of course. The bad-guy survivors make a bee-line for Las Vegas. Wouldn’t you know.
I’m not going to recount the entire plot–read the damned book. It’s a terrific story of good versus evil with some of the juicy pulp details Stephen King loves to sprinkle in. It’s probably my favorite of his novels, although I vacillate back and forth between The Stand and It as numero uno. I have a deep appreciation for King, who is able to evoke my nineteen-fifties childhood more sharply than any other author I’ve read.
Until recent years, it’s been my annual tradition to reread The Stand at Christmas to balance out the more egregious aspects of the holiday, and to take advantage of the ever active flu season. But this year, the time is now. It’s hard to continue feeling sorry for myself and my puny little germ while reading about the wholesale destruction of the world’s population.
And I’ll be damned if I give into the oh-God-it’s-probably-terminal thinking that villainous bastard Randall Flagg uses to spread terror across the land.
Enter your name in the Wisdom Court drawing on Halloween by commenting on this post. The prize is your own copy of each book in the Wisdom Court Trilogy: Edge of the Shadow, A Signal Shown, and All In Bad Time. All signed by me.