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A Collection of Ghost Stories
Table of Contents
About The Book
Selected and introduced by the bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry—including Audrey Niffenegger’s own stunning illustrations for each piece—this is a “spine-tingling” (Chicago Tribune) collection of some of the best ghost stories of all time.
From Edgar Allen Poe to Kelly Link, MR James to Neil Gaiman, HH Munro to Audrey Niffenegger herself, Ghostly spans the whole history of the ghost story genre from gothic horror to the modern era. Each story is introduced by Audrey Niffenegger, with short original commentary and background on why she chose to include it. Also included is Niffenegger’s own story, “A Secret Life with Cats.”
Perfect for the classic and contemporary ghost story aficionado, this haunting volume showcases the best of the best in the field—including Edgar Allan Poe, Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, Ray Bradbury, and so many more. “Audrey Niffenegger is a master of the supernatural…She knows a good horror story when she sees one. Ghostly is her collection of the best of the genre” (Bustle).
Reading Group Guide
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Edited, illustrated, and introduced by the bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, this is a unique and haunting anthology of some of the best ghost stories ever written. From Edgar Allan Poe to Kelly Link, Edith Wharton to Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury to Audrey Niffenegger herself, Ghostly spans from the nineteenth century to the modern era, ranging across styles from Gothic horror to Victorian sentiment, with a particular appreciation for haunting—haunted children, lovers, pets, homes. Each story, introduced by Niffenegger, has been chosen with an eye for the deliciously uncanny.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. In her introduction, Niffenegger says, “Dead is the most alone you can be” (p. vii). Why is aloneness so central to ghost stories?
2. What makes “houses, lovers, children, cats,” these “things that are frequently haunted” (p. viii), so ripe for possession?
3. Which cat or group of cats is most terrifying in this collection—Poe’s black cat (p. 3) or Niffenegger’s basement cats (p. 21)? Which do you sympathize with the most?
4. In “The Beckoning Fair One,” Paul Oleron thinks that “each of us knows that point beyond which we stand alone” (p. 105), and he prides himself on having more discernment than Elsie Bengough, though this is arguable. Why does he shut Elsie out, essentially choosing to be alone?
5. Consider “Honeysuckle Cottage” (p. 205) from Rose Maynard’s point of view. Is it a romance? A tragedy? Is William a hero or a villain in Rose’s version?
6. Think back: When did you first suspect the boy in “Click-Clack the Rattelbag” (p. 241)? Did he sneak up on you, too?
7. The man in “The July Ghost” (p. 323) says, “Please, let me go. What are we, in this house? A man and a woman and a child, and none of us can get through. You can’t want that?” and then the boy smiles, closing the story (pp. 345–46). Do you think the man stays, or does he leave?
8. “Nerves” often plague characters in gothic stories, and we see them at play in “The Open Window” (p. 359) and “Playmates” (p. 285). How do the affects of these nervous conditions on Mr. Nuttel and Stephen Everton play into each man’s reaction to the (seemingly) supernatural?
9. Twins are never alone, in a way, yet they often appear in ghost stories, as they do in “The Specialist’s Hat” (p. 367). Babysitters, too, tend to pop up in horror, seen here in both “The Specialist’s Hat” and “Click-Clack the Rattlebag.” Why are twins and babysitters so popular in scary tales?
10. Why is Jane Eyre Angie’s favorite book in “Tiny Ghosts” (p. 389)?
11. Niffenegger says, “Perhaps this is not a ghost story at all, but I like to think it is” of Ray Bradbury’s “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” (p. 441). Do you think it is? How so?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Watch the film Rebecca, starring Joan Fontaine and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and compare it to Edith Wharton’s “The Pomegranate Seed.” How are Charlotte Ashby and Mrs. de Winter alike? Where do they differ?
2. Niffenegger writes that she enjoys reading “The Mezzotint” by M. R. James (p. 185) aloud to her students. Host a book club challenge: each member chooses a favorite ghost story, from this collection or elsewhere, and reads it aloud. Don’t be shy; extra credit for dramatic voice performances and the giving of shivers.
3. Read M. R. James’s essay “Some Remarks on Ghost Stories” from the December 1929 issue of The Bookman. James asserts that a ghost story must have five elements: the pretense of truth; a “pleasing terror”; no gratuitous violence, bloodshed, or sex; it allows “us to be just a little in the dark as to the working of [its] machinery”; and is set in the “writer’s own day.” Discuss these elements. Are there any you would add or remove for a successful ghost story? Where are they present in the stories in Ghostly?
- Publisher: Scribner (October 3, 2023)
- Length: 464 pages
- ISBN13: 9781501111204
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Raves and Reviews
Praise for Ghostly and Audrey Niffenegger
“Audrey Niffenegger has gone and put together a collection of the most chilling short stories around… if you’re a collector this book is perfect for you. It has all the classics in one place.”
“Niffenegger has taken pains to bring together stories showing the full range of the ghost story… her illustrations are sympathetic, skillful, and in places decidedly unsettling…”
“Perfectly timed for fall… Spine-tingling.”
“Niffenegger both assembled a range of stories — classics by Edgar Allan Poe and M.R. James, more modern tales from Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link — and illustrated them, as well as contributed her own new, creepy work. Read it in bed and sleep with the extra light on.”
"Audrey Niffenegger is a master of the supernatural, from her bestselling The Time Traveler’s Wife to the less well-known Her Fearful Symmetry, so she knows a good horror story when she sees one. Ghostly is her collection of the best of the genre, as well as her own spooky tale, “A Secret Life With Cats.""
"Niffenegger includes crisp introductions that provide context... The best stories do an excellent job of evoking that crucial frisson of dread."
"Niffenegger uses her skills with chills to select and introduce top-notch ghost stories."
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