Short Story Review: Eveline’s Visitant by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

I found the short story Eveline’s Visitant by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, in Anthology of Fear: 20 Haunting Stories for Winter Nights (Marshall Cavendish Ltd.)

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An enjoyable, atmospheric quick read with an unexpected ending. Highly recommended for reading on a cold, dark winter’s night. 4 / 5

Summary

Two cousins, Hector and André de Brissac, quarrel over a woman.  André is the cousin favoured by Fortune; women love him and the family money and lands have gone to him.  By contrast, Hector is considered “a rough soldier” and “mannerless boor”.  The quarrel escalates and a challenge to duel is issued, with fatal consequences for André.

But, with his dying breath, André does his best to ensure that Hector does not enjoy his victory nor his inheritance…He claims their quarrel is not yet over.  Hector, however, does not believe in such things…

Favourite Quote

I will come to you when your life seems brightest. I will come between you and all that you hold fairest and dearest. My ghostly hand shall drop a poison in your cup of joy.

(From Eveline’s Visitant by Mary Elizabeth Braddon)

Review

I’m a little late completing and posting this review, seeing as though I read the story as one of my Halloween Reads for 2019!

As part of the same reading challenge, I read The Cold Embrace, another short story by the Mary Elizabeth Braddon (you can find that review here).  I noted then that I really liked the author’s writing style and ability to create the most atmospheric and unexpected twists in the story.  So I went into reading Eveline’s Visitant with high expectations and was not disappointed.  Once again the story was atmospheric and the unusual plot twists came as a surprise. Although I would like to go into detail about what was so special about these twists, I won’t for fear of giving too much away.  But I will say this: the ending came as a complete surprise.

My copy was no more than twelve pages long, so it’s a quick read, but for all that, there is no lack of story.  The setting is richly described, both Paris and the inherited estate, and there are enough details of the main characters to make them appear whole and believable.

If you enjoy reading ghost stories on dark nights by candlelight, I recommend you give this a read.  There’s a creepiness to it, a pervading sense of the sinister…

I plan to read more by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and have added her first novel, published in 1862 – a sensational melodrama – Lady Audley’s Secret, to my TBR list.

Rating

 

 

Short Story Review: The Cold Embrace by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

I read The Cold Embrace by Mary Braddon in Anthology of Fear: 20 Haunting Stories for Winter Nights (Marshall Cavendish Ltd).

Quick Review

Atmospheric and unexpected…a fantastic Gothic read for Halloween or a cold, dark winter’s night. 4 / 5

Summary

A German artist, orphaned at an early age, is raised in his uncle’s household where he forms an attachment to his cousin, Gertrude.  They become close and secretly become engaged, only Uncle Wilhelm has high expectations of finding a rich suitor for his daughter…

When the artist is of an age, he travels across Europe undertaking commissions for rich patrons, in the hope of finding fame and fortune.  But what of Gertrude?   She is quickly forgotten…but her retribution at his betrayal cannot be…

Favourite Quote

The date seems burnt into her brain.

The date, written in fire, dances forever before her eyes.

The date, shrieked by the Furies, sounds continually in her ears.

(from The Cold Embrace by Mary Elizabeth Braddon)

Review

I read The Cold Embrace as part of my Halloween Reads challenge for 2019.

Mary Braddon is an author I had not read before, prior to undertaking this year’s Halloween Reads.  Yet it is clear, as soon as I started reading The Cold Embrace, I had been missing something.  This was a great read and I enjoyed the author’s writing style very much.

The Cold Embrace is one of the best Victorian Gothic ghost stories I’ve read.  Full of atmosphere and rich in description, once started, I had to read to the end (it isn’t a particularly long read).  It had just the right amount of creepiness to it without being gory, which is how I prefer my ghost stories.

There is a sadness to the story that cannot be avoided due to the tragic subject matter, but the author doesn’t dwell too heavily on it.  Rather, a clever response, beautifully written, sees the fiancée get her retribution.  Although the storyline is predictable, I don’t believe its execution was.

I read a second story by this author for my Halloween Reading challenge, Eveline’s Visitant, so keep an eye out for that forthcoming review.  It was another good story 😉

I expect that I will be reading many more stories by Mary Braddon in the future, because I certainly enjoyed this one.  It was perfect for the Halloween challenge and equally suited to reading on a cold, dark winter’s night. Recommended!

Rating

Quoting the Classics – Part 2

“Quoting the Classics” was a challenge I set myself in 2015.  Each week, for the duration of the year, I was to post a quote from a classic, so that by the end of if, I would have collected together 52 quotes.

It was an interesting exercise, and so I thought, four years on, I would revisit the challenge, and post ten of my favourite quotes from those collected.  You can find the first five posted here, Quoting the Classics – Part 1.  The second five can be found below…

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Book Review: Njal’s Saga translated and edited by Robert Cook

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Interesting, engaging and informative, Njal’s Saga was excellent reading.  Engrossing and dramatic, I will be reading this again in the future. 4.5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

“You will be paid for like any other free man…You will be paid for in blood.”  Written in the late thirteenth century, Njal’s Saga is the most popular and powerful of all the great Icelandic Family Sagas –  a compelling chronicle of a fifty-year blood feud.  Blending dark dreams, strange prophecies, sexual slander, violent conflict and fragile traces, it is at once heroic and deeply human.  Throughout, memorable characters struggle with their passions, including Gunnar of Hlidarendi, a great warrior with an aversion to killing, the complex and villainous Mord Valgardsson, and the wise and prescient Njal.  But as they search for honour, they remain dominated by perennial man-made problems: failed marriages, divided loyalties, the law’s inability to curb human instincts, and ultimately the terrible consequences when decent men and women are swept up in a tide of violence beyond their control.

The text for this modern translation has been taken from the acclaimed Complete Sagas of the Icelanders, published by Leifur Eiriksson.  This edition includes an introduction, chronology, index of characters, plot summary, family trees, explanatory notes, maps and suggestions for further reading.

Favourite Quote

‘What I don’t know,’ said Gunnar, ‘is whether I am less manly than other men because killing troubles me more than it does them.’

(Njal’s Saga, translated and edited by Robert Cook, pg 93)

Review

This is the first book I’ve read that focuses on the great Icelandic family sagas and I found it to be a thoroughly interesting and engaging read.  It took a little while to get into the style of how it was written but that is to be expected when the original text is so old.  Neither did I read it quickly; I read it over the course of about a month, dipping into it only when I felt I had the time to read and absorb what I read.  This, of course, was through choice.

Njal’s Saga offers a glimpse of life in Iceland a millennia ago (although the story was written down in the thirteenth century, it originates several hundred years prior to this).  Like Homer’s The Iliad, not only is this story an epic, it is full of historical facts and events, which are attested to in other records made a round the same time.  Religion, law, home, society, marriages, friendships, travel, violence…so many topics are covered within the narrative.

The story centres around two men, Njal and Gunnar, and their families.  Both are formidable in their way; Njal is considered to be one of the wisest men in Iceland and Gunnar is a warrior, almost without equal, but who was loathe to get into fights because he could see it would only lead to more trouble.  The two were great friends, though their friendship is put under a mighty strain, thanks to the efforts of kith and kin.

Because at the time this was written ancestry and lineage were so important, there are quite extensive lists in places of who is related to who.  These passages reminded me of the genealogies found in the old testament.  However, they are important to the story so that you can see where people’s allegiances lie, and why they might pick one side over another in an argument.

Some of the names mentioned in the text were fantastic and evocative and are worth recalling here.  There was Ragnor Shaggy-breeches,  Bjorn Gold-Bearer,  Hrafn the Foolish, Eirik Blood-axe, Ulf the Unwashed, Sigurd Swine-head…and many, many more.

I loved the end matter included in this book.  There was so much of it and it all added to the richness of the story.  Some parts, such as the family trees, were a necessity in order to keep up with the story, whilst the glossary and notes explained terms, phrases and sayings one might not understand.  One such term whose explanation I found interesting was that of “unborn”, which was found at the end of the name of Uni the Unborn, meaning he was born via Caesarean.

I found the portrayal of women in the story amusing, for many of them were feisty and fierce and extraordinarily troublesome.  If there was trouble – and there was always trouble – it was the women who were stirring it on many occasions.  The men would work with the law to patch up some quarrel or grievance while the women would ignore the settlements, hell-bent on settling the scores themselves.  The following quote perfectly captures the character of one of these women, Hallgerd, wife of Gunnar:

“Gunnar got ready to ride to the Thing, and before he left he spoke to Hallgerd: ‘Behave yourself while I’m away and don’t show your bad temper where my friends are concerned.’

‘The trolls take your friends,’ she said.”

One slight negative was the repetitiveness of the witness testimony, which at times seemed lengthy and hard-going and slowed my reading considerably.  On the one hand I understand why it was there but on the other it did test my patience to hear the same thing again and again, albeit briefly.

I learnt so much from reading this book, and won’t hesitate to pick it up again.  I’m now looking forward to reading more from the great Icelandic family sagas.

Rating

4.5 / 5

 


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #8 in the list: A book you would class as an educational read.

Quoting the Classics – Part 1

“Quoting the Classics” was a challenge I set myself in 2015.  Each week, for the duration of the year, I was to post a quote from a classic, so that by the end of if, I would have collected together 52 quotes.

It was an interesting exercise, and so I thought, four years on, I would revisit the challenge, and post ten of my favourite quotes from those collected.  The first five can be found below.  The second five will be posted in the coming weeks…

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Short Story Review: They Never Get Caught by Margery Allingham


This short story was found in Great Crime Stories first published by Chancellor Press in 1936.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An interesting, engaging read from the ‘golden age’ of crime writing with a great twist at the end. 4 / 5

Summary

Harold Brownrigg is a chemist with a few money problems and a wandering eye.  His wife, Millie, is just dull and stupid, nothing like some of the pretty girls that come into his shop.  But none are so captivating as Phyllis, a young woman half his age.

However, Phyllis feels guilty about what they are doing even if he does not, and so decides to end it.  This is too much for Harold, especially when he hears that Phyllis has been seen about town with a younger chap in a flashy car.  It is becoming more and more obvious for Harold that Millie is just a problem he needs to get rid of.  Once he has got rid of her, not only will it clear the way for him to be with Phyllis but he will also be able to get his hands on the money left to Millie by her father.

And so begins the intricate planning of a murder.

Favourite Quote

Over-dark, round, hot eyes had Mr Brownrigg; not at all the sort of eyes for a little, plump, middle-aged chemist with a placid wife like Millie.

(From They Never Get Caught by Margery Allingham)

Review

They Never Get Caught was an interesting, engaging read.  Written by one of the queens of golden age crime writing, this is the first story I have read by Margery Allingham (and as of 2019, I have read it twice), though I have a number of Campion novels sitting on my bookshelf.

I felt very sorry for poor Millie as I moved through the story.  Harold was extremely cold, even when he felt unnerved by what he was trying to do.

The story was cleverly written, and the number of characters and points of view from which we see what is going on, is handled very well given the story is told in under twenty pages.  The main POV is from Harold himself, though glimpses are provided by Millie and the errand boy Bill Perry.

The twist in the tale – which I won’t mention – was very good.  I didn’t expect it, probably because I was too preoccupied by the callous nature of Harold.

A short, satisfying read, if you like ‘golden age’ crime stories, then I would recommend They Never Get Caught to you.

Rating


Re-read and review updated in March 2019.  Originally read and reviewed in October 2014.

Short Story Review: Eleonora by Edgar Allan Poe

Eleonora is a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe, published in the 1840’s.

The narrator introduces us to his life in two parts: the first, when he lived in the Valley of the Many-Coloured Grass and the second when he lived in the city.

In the first, he lived with his aunt and her daughter, Eleonora, in this rural paradise, where he describes a land of beauty, flowers, rivers and hills, and none save them three came to the valley.  There is only one that can surpass the beauty of the valley: Eleonora.

The narrator and Eleonora fall deeply in love, but very quickly she becomes ill, “…she had been made perfect in loveliness only to die”.  The only issue Eleonora has with death is that the narrator might leave the valley and give his love to some other woman, which of course, he swears he will not do.  He makes it clear that he will not marry another woman.

And yet, many years after the death of Eleonora, he leaves the valley, breaks his oath and marries another.  But does the breaking of this oath have any implications for the narrator and his future?

Eleonora discusses the issues of love after loss.  It’s a poignant but interesting story and the description, especially of the Valley of the Many-Coloured Grass which serves to illustrate and reflect his feelings for Eleonora, is vivid.  When he speaks of love, the valley is a paradise, but when he becomes grief-stricken the valley is no longer what it is was.

My favourite quote from Eleonora, I featured in last year’s Quoting the Classics challenge:

Eleonora quote