The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

While I grant you that The Turn of the Screw is not really a Christmas story, it does have the tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve as its framework, so I'm counting it as part of my seasonal reading. The Turn of the Screw is fascinating and creepy and leaves you not knowing what the heck was going on. Our narrator is reading the story to folks around the fire, so it's not his story.  A governess is hired for two children who are under the care of their uncle. The uncle lives in town while the kids live at the country house, where the governess will be in charge. The uncle basically wants to have to deal with them as little as possible. The governess has written her story down, so everything we know and see is from her point of view. Even she admits that she has a vivid imagination and is “rather easily carried away.” So we've got...
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Thornhill by Pam Smy

Thornhill is spooky and heart-breaking. Ella is sad and lonely, but when she glimpses a girl in the window of the Thornhill Institute, she becomes obsessed with finding out who she was and what happened to her. Mary lived at the Institute in the 1980s, also a sad, lonely girl who is bullied and terrorized by the other girls. Thornhill is at heart a ghost story. We know from the beginning that Mary's a ghotst, but her diary entries made me cry. Her life at Thornhill was miserable, and few of the adults around her seemed competent or truly caring. Ella's story is just as sad. I assume her father loves her, but he's never home and her mom is gone, presumably dead. Her side of the story is depicted in black and white illustrations that are striking and add to the dark atmosphere of the novel. We know something happened to Mary, but not what. I think this is one of...
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The Visitant by Megan Chance

I don't usually read ghost stories, but this seemed like a perfect fit for RIP X and I do love Venice as a setting. To me, The Visitant had three parts: the setting, the ghost story, and the romance. The story is set in Venice but most of it takes place in the Basilio palazzo. It's the perfect setting: a crumbling old mansion, too cold and grey, in a city that, while romantic, is also decaying. The servants are hostile to Elena and the aunt is just flat out odd. There is a lot of time establishing the atmosphere. Elena is hoping to see Venice but seems trapped in this house. the setting is probably my favorite part of the story. The ghost story was not scary enough to keep me up at night, but progressed well. The ghost was clearly angry, and, unlike Elena, the reader knows it's a ghost from the beginning - the title tells us. It doesn't take...
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