It’s time again for Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.
The chain this month begins with a book I’ve read, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. But is it a ghost story or a psychological study? Either way there are creepy, disturbing things going on. It’s a story within a story, told as a ghost story to a group of people as they sit gathered round a fire in an old house. It tells of two children and their governess. She has been employed by their uncle who wants nothing to do with them. Their previous governess had died under mysterious circumstances (was it in childbirth?).
There’s a very different kind of ghost in Robert Harris’s book, The Ghost – a ghostwriter, employed to finish writing the memoirs of recently retired prime minister of Great Britain, Adam Peter Benet Lang. The ghostwriter soon discovers that Lang has secrets in his past that are returning to haunt him – secrets with the power to kill.
There’s also a different kind of ghost in Mortmain Hall by Martin Edwards, which begins, ‘The ghost climbed out of a hackney carriage‘. Rachel followed the ghost as he entered a funeral train run by the London Necropolis Company for privileged first-class passengers. Set in 1930 this is a complex murder mystery with several plot lines.
There’s a ‘real’ ghost in Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch – Nicholas Wallpenny, who has been dead for at least a hundred and twenty years – he is a ghost. This is an urban fantasy set in the real world of London, a mix of reality and the supernatural.
There’s ghost in a stained glass window in The Glass Guardian by Linda Gillard. Ruth has inherited a dilapidated Victorian house on the Isle of Skye: Tigh na Linne, the summer home she shared as a child with her beloved Aunt Janet. As she attempts to sort through her aunt’s belongings it becomes clear that there is more about her aunt and her family history than she ever knew before. And then she realises there is someone else in the house and there is a stained glass window behind a large wardrobe, which she never knew existed. From there on Ruth is unsure whether she is in her ‘Sane Mind’ or her ‘Insane Mind’, as she hears the wardrobe being dragged from its position in the dead of night.
Next, a ghost in a cathedral in Broken Voices by Andrew Taylor, set in an East Anglian cathedral city just before the First World War when two schoolboys are left at the cathedral school during the Christmas holidays. They lodge with Mr Ratcliffe, a semi-retired schoolmaster, a bachelor now in his seventies. The two boys are entertained by the ghost stories that Mr Ratcliffe tells them. There was an ancient tragedy connected with the cathedral bells, the tower and a Canon who had been commissioned to write an anthem to mark the occasion when the bells were recast. The cathedral is full of shifting shadows, and the bell tower is haunted by fragments of melody, which one of the boys can hear.
A N Wilson’s book, The Jealous Ghost, brings us back full circle in the chain, because it’s a re-writing of The Turn of the Screw. Sallie Declan is a young American in London, obsessed with Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, the subject of her PhD. thesis. She leaves her studies for a temporary job as a nanny in a large country house and builds a fantasy about her emotional future there. Surely she can see it is all delusion? But a progressively darker reality unfolds leading inevitably to a terrible and shocking climax. I enjoyed this book, but prefer the original.
My six degrees are full of ghosts of different types, some literal, some literary, some in a supernatural sense and some psychological. From spooky and creepy to loving and urban fantasy fun. All of them haunting tales in one sense or another.