BOOK REVIEW: Eight Ghosts – Edited by Rowan Routh

It’s like that Ronseal advert once famously stated ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin’. That is what September Publishing have done here with ‘Eight Ghosts’ – featuring a plethora of fabulous authors; Mark Haddon, Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Perry, Andrew Michael Hurley, Stuart Evers, Kamila Shamsie, Kate Clanchy and Max Porter.

The authors were given as it states at the front of the book, afterhours freedom at their chosen English Heritage site to immerse themselves in the history, atmosphere and rumoured haunted rooms or locations within these landmarks; giving them the perfect exposure to the creepy in order to let their imaginations, creativity and dark thoughts inspire these new ghost stories.

I decided to read this book in the lead up to Christmas, as who doesn’t enjoy a good spooky Christmas story once in a while; it worked for Charles Dickens so why not create a creepy book for people to read during the festive season. Many of the places mentioned in the book I have been fortunate enough to visit, due to my parents having an English Heritage pass whilst I was growing up. Although I wished I’d paid more attention at the time, instead of thinking about how boring the day would be walking around creepy castles in the pissing rain. But we are British and we must see all these sites even in the depressing, dreary weather that often accompanies a trip out with the family – but these places are painted so vividly by these authors that memories suddenly came flooding back.

Each of the writers delivers a fabulous tale, there is not one story that didn’t grab my attention; but having said that there are some I feel that had more of a lasting impact than others. Although this is a new collection of Ghost Stories, if they were removed from the beautifully designed book you could and most probably would think that these ghost stories have been shared over campfires for decades. It is a testament to the writers how well this collection works; having such a broad range of writers certainly makes this collection an enjoyable and arrestingly gripping book.

‘’Who is the man in a brown cloak standing at the foot of my bed every night?’ my sister asked, aged six or seven.

I said ‘A ghost’ and Mother said ‘Bad dreams’ and Papa said ‘Absolute nonsense. Nobody cares for your made-up terrors.’

Papa died and we were a house of women. We grew accustomed, but not sympathetic, to Delia’s unnerving claims.

She sometimes said ‘That’s him!’ in a gallery, or in a busy street, and she would be referring to her man in brown robes. Once we rushed upstairs upon hearing her scream and she was pointing to the chair beside her bed. ‘He was sitting in my chair!’’ – Extract from Max Porter’s ‘Mrs Charbury at Eltham’

There are some stories as mentioned previously that stand out to me as being brilliant which are ‘They Flee From Me That Sometime Did Me Seek’ by Sarah Perry, ‘The Bunker’ by Mark Haddon, ‘Foreboding’ by Kamila Shamsie, ‘The Wall’ by Kate Clanchy and ‘Mrs Charbury at Eltham’ by Max Porter. This is not to say that the others were bad it’s just these particular stories played on my mind long after finishing. This I guess is also the appeal of ‘Eight Ghosts’; with such a rich roster of writers and the quality of their work, there will undoubtedly be stories that other readers may prefer, stories that pray on that individuals innermost fears and personal preferences – whatever you like or fear there is something for everyone in this collection.

‘Eight Ghosts – The English Heritage Book of New Ghost Stories’ is a great book that I would recommend to anyone who loves a good ghost story. Written by a motley crew of terrific writers, it should also awaken the inquisitive nature in you to explore these sites for yourself – go on grab yourself an English Heritage pass, grab yourselves a copy of the book and get exploring, you may just stumble across a few of the ghosts from this book, if you make it out alive.

Eight Ghosts was published by September Publishing, if you would like to learn more about them please click here

If you would like to purchase Eight Ghosts support independent publishing by purchasing it from them directly click on the logo below to purchase copy.

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Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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