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Spooky Halloween Reads (Part One – Classics)

Halloween is merely one week away and what better way is there to get into the spooky mood than read some spooky books :) In preparation, I have made a compilation of some of my favourite classic books to read during Halloween. Here are my choices:

1. The Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe132314

“The unabridged Edgar Allan Poe contains all of Poe’s classic tales and most haunting poems – presented, for the first time, in the order he originally wrote them. This complete collection of Poe’s versatile genius lets you share his journeys into the wondrous and macabre that have entertained and fascinated readers for generations. Not a word has been deleted!”

the-turn-of-the-screw-and-other-stories 2. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

“A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant,  oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate. An estate haunted by a  beckoning evil. Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent,  foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing  horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking  to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls. But worse-much worse- the  governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil. For they want  the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.”

3. Dracula by Bram Stokerdracula-cover

“When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula with the purchase of a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries about his client and his castle. Soon afterwards, a number of disturbing incidents unfold in England: an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby; strange puncture marks appear on a young woman’s neck; and the inmate of a lunatic asylum raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘Master’. In the ensuing battle of wits between the sinister Count Dracula and a determined group of adversaries, Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing deeply into questions of human identity and sanity, and illuminating dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.”

frankenstein-cover 4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

“Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a  Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of  science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein.  Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation  upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts  but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented  by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a  campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.
 Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and  science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever.”

5. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Lerouxgaston-leroux-1

“First published in French as a serial in 1909, “The Phantom of the Opera” is a riveting story that revolves around the young, Swedish Christine Daaé. Her father, a famous musician, dies, and she is raised in the Paris Opera House with his dying promise of a protective angel of music to guide her. After a time at the opera house, she begins hearing a voice, who eventually teaches her how to sing beautifully. All goes well until Christine’s childhood friend Raoul comes to visit his parents, who are patrons of the opera, and he sees Christine when she begins successfully singing on the stage. The voice, who is the deformed, murderous ‘ghost’ of the opera house named Erik, however, grows violent in his terrible jealousy, until Christine suddenly disappears. The phantom is in love, but it can only spell disaster. Leroux’s work, with characters ranging from the spoiled prima donna Carlotta to the mysterious Persian from Erik’s past, has been immortalized by memorable adaptations. Despite this, it remains a remarkable piece of Gothic horror literature in and of itself, deeper and darker than any version that follows.”

legend-of-sleepy-hollow6. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a story by Washington Irving written while he was living  in Birmingham, England. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is among the earliest examples of  American fiction still read today. The story is set circa 1790 in the Dutch settlement of  Tarry Town (based on Tarrytown, New York), in a secluded glen called Sleepy Hollow. It  tells the story of Ichabod Crane, who is a lean, lanky, and extremely superstitious  schoolmaster from Connecticut, who competes with Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt,  the town rowdy, for the hand of 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and sole child  of a wealthy farmer, Baltus Van Tassel. As Crane leaves a party he attended at the Van  Tassel home on an autumn night, he is pursued by the Headless Horseman, who is supposedly the ghost of a Hessian trooper who had his head shot off by a stray cannonball during “some nameless battle” of the American Revolutionary War, and who “rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head.”

7. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson9780141389509

“Few Victorian mysteries are more haunting, sinister and profound than Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is when Mr. Utterson, a dry London lawyer, peruses the last will of his old friend Henry Jekyll that his suspicions are aroused. What is the relationship between upright, respectable Dr. Jekyll and the evil Edward Hyde? Who murdered the distinguished MP, Sir Danvers? So begins Stevenson’s spine-tingling horror story, the story of Dr. Jekyll’s infernal alter ego, and of a hunt throughout the nocturnal streets of London that culminates in some dreadful revelations.”

What are your favourite spooky classic reads? :)

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‘Poetry of the First World War: An Anthology’ – edited by Tim Kendall ****

Oxford World’s Classics’ beautifully produced Poetry of the First World War is one of the most important and far-reaching anthologies to have been published in this, World War One’s centenary year.  In his introduction, Kendall, the book’s editor, writes: ‘this anthology represents the work of poets who lived through the First World War, from Thomas Hardy, 74 at war’s outbreak and the unrivalled elder statesman of English letters, to [John] Edgell Rickword, 58 years his junior, who left school to enlist in 1916′.

Kendall’s introduction works well, and his passion about First World War poetry comes across immediately.  He states that he has tried to include poems which are as diverse as possible, making room for those written by the following throughout: ‘Men and women, soldiers and civilians, patriots and pacifists – the poets of the First World War came in all forms’. Kendall describes the way in which, ‘during the First World War, poetry became established as the barometer for the nation’s values: the greater the civilization, the greater its poetic heritage’.  He then goes on to say that ‘pride in their nation’s literary achievements was a common ingredient in the patriotism of soldiers and civilians alike’.

Kendall has made well considered contributions to Poetry of the First World War, and successfully encompasses writers – all from Britain and Ireland, mind – from all walks of life.  The poems which he has selected were penned between 1914 and 1966.  He has also included something a little different; a selection of Music Hall and trench songs relating to, or prevalent at the time of, the conflict.  The dates in which the poems were written – often very precise – have been included too; this is an important yet simple piece of information which is so often missing from poetry anthologies.

As with all Oxford World’s Classics editions, a wealth of important contributory information has been included, from an extensive selection of informative notes, to a large bibliography.  Each poet’s introduction begins with a comprehensive biography, the majority of which relates heavily to their place within the First World War, and all of which have been carefully written.  The chronology of war poets and the conflict which has been provided is a useful tool.

As with most collections of this nature, there is an imbalance between the showcased poets and the number of their poems included; here there are ten by Thomas Hardy and seventeen by Ivor Gurney, for example, but only one from the likes of established names such as A.E. Housman, Lawrence Binyon and David Jones.  Poetry of the First World War is still, however, a very enjoyable, thought-provoking and well considered collection, which deserves a place on every bookshelf.

Purchase from The Book Depository