The Ghosts of Kerfol by Deborah Noyes

The Ghosts of Kerfol is a wonderful collection of five interlocking ghost stories inspired by Edith Wharton’s ghost story Kerfol. In her classic tale of thrill and suspense, Edith Wharton narrates the story of Anne de Barrigan, who married Yves de Cornault, the lord of the Kerfol estate. As Yves de Cornault is found dead, seemingly attacked by a pack of dogs, Anne de Barrigan is sentenced of murdering her husband. But here’s the peculiar thing: there were no dogs at Kerfol the day the lord was murdered – at least no living dogs!

I must admit that I have not read Edith Wharton’s ghost story yet, but now that I’ve read and enjoyed The Ghosts of Kerfol, I want to learn more about the original Kerfol. I really absorbed every page of Deborah Noyes’s remarkable collection and I have been haunted by the characters in my sleep (I am serious – after reading some of the ghost stories, I went to sleep and dreamed of Kerfol and its dark secrets). But now let’s have a look at these powerful tales of revenge:

Hunger Moon (set in 1613) is the first ghost story and it’s my favorite one as it revolves around Anne de Barrigan and her husband Yves de Cornault. The story pays tribute to Edith Wharton’s Kerfol and it is told from Perrette’s perspective. Perrette is Anne’s new chambermaid and she witnesses all the strange and frightening events that take place at Kerfol. The young girl is a very likeable character who carefully observes the relationship between Anne and her husband Yves. Perrette immediately perceives that Anne seems very unhappy and lonely at Kerfol and that she doesn’t have any freedom, as her husband is a very ruthless and dominant man. Although he overwhelms her with the most expensive and exquisite gifts, Yves can’t fill Anne’s emptiness and make her happy. But one day, he manages to at least bring some joy to Anne by giving her a little dog. Perrette is glad to see her Milady smile and rejoice for once. However, her happiness is short-lived, as one day, her precious dog is found dead on her pillow, killed with a sapphire and diamond necklace, one of Yves’s gifts to Anne. Everyone at Kerfol supposes that Anne’s jealous husband is behind this dreadful deed. He must have learned that Anne has befriended a young nobleman named Hervé de Lanrivain and as an act of revenge, he killed Anne’s little dog. Other dogs follow, since Anne brings in a new dog every time the previous one is found dead on her pillow, killed exactly as the first dog. A year after the first dog was brought to Kerfol, Yves de Cornault is found dead on the stairs, apparently killed by a brutal pack of dogs. Anne is immediately convicted of murdering her husband, but since the judges disagree with each other, Anne is released into the care of Yves’s relatives, who imprison her in the tower of Kerfol where she dies years later. The judges failed to understand how it was possible that some savage dogs attacked the elderly lord, when there were no living dogs at Kerfol that day. Only Anne’s dead dogs were there, her beloved dogs that were strangled and buried one by one by her violent husband.

The following ghost stories These Heads Would Speak (set in 1802), The Figure Under the Sheet (set in 1926), When I Love You Best (set in 1982) and The Red of Berries (set in 2006) slip forward in time, giving the reader a glimpse into the lives of troubled characters. The stories feature a young and confused artist, a party girl who drowns her sorrows in alcohol, an unhappy young American couple and a deaf gardener who cares for the Kerfol estate. All these people have something in common, as they are plagued and haunted by the ghosts of Kerfol. Anne’s dead dogs torment and rip apart each of these souls and they don’t spare anyone, as they have come to take revenge!

The Ghosts of Kerfol is an absorbing collection of ghost stories that will make your flesh creep and that will leave you hungry for more. The talented Deborah Noyes does a great job creating a dark and sinister atmosphere by using gothic elements and she skilfully portrays a sombre world full of secrets, intrigues and mysteries. I truly loved this book and I highly recommend it to everyone who loves ghost stories and who is a fan of Gothic Literature. These haunting tales will linger in your mind for a long time and you will want to read other works by Deborah Noyes. I just wished that these ghost stories were longer and not so short because I longed for more! Luckily, the author has a promising upcoming novel, Captivity, and you can find out more about it here.

Note: The author kindly sent me a copy of her fascinating book and I would like to thank her for that!

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R.I.P. IV Challenge

When I heard of Carl’s R.I.P. Challenge, I knew I had to participate in this reading challenge. I am a huge fan of ghost stories and I love the gothic genre, so this challenge is perfect for me. This will actually be my first reading challenge, so I am very excited!

Here are the rules:

R.I.P. IV runs from September 1st through October 31st!

Read any from these genres:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural
.

Have fun reading.

Share that fun with others.

Multiple perils await you. You can participate in just one, or participate in them all. Visit Carl’s site to find out more about it and to choose the one that suits you best!

I am going with Peril the Third. The book I’ve chosen for this challenge is The Ghost Writer by John Harwood. I also decided to read some short stories for the Short Story Peril. I don’t know what stories I will read, but I am sure I will enjoy them! I can’t wait to start reading!

 

The Fall Of The House Of Usher

I finally read my first e-book! Well, it was not a long one (the e-book contained about 25 pages), thus I really liked this experience. I sat on a comfortable chair, ate some delicious strawberries and read a Gothic short story. Most of you have probably read The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, but I haven’t (I know, I am really ashamed to admit it). We briefly talked about it in one of our lectures (American Gothic) at my university, but I haven’t read it at that time. Well, now I have and I am so glad I did! It’s such a great Gothic story and I loved everything about it – the created atmosphere, the plot and the beautiful language!

Here’s my summary of this wonderful story:

In a letter, Roderick Usher urges a nameless narrator to come and visit him because he has an illness and thus seeks his comfort. As soon as the narrator arrives at the House of Usher, he describes it as “a mystery all insoluble”, as a “melancholy” house with “dark and intricate passages”, and as a mansion of “insufferable gloom”. He just has an uneasy feeling about his friend’s house and thinks that the atmosphere of the house has “no affinity with the air of heaven”. To him, the atmosphere of his friend’s house appears to be an atmosphere of “sorrow”. Everything seems to be dark and sombre: the walls, the floors, the draperies; even the air is gloomy. Moreover, the house seems to be in need of some renovations, since it has a crumbling and decayed appearance.

When the narrator meets his friend, Roderick Usher, whom he has known since they were boys, he is surprised to see how much he has changed and he notices that his friend has “an excessive nervous agitation”. Roderick then tells the narrator about his illness and states that his ancestors also suffered from the same illness. He describes that he can only wear specific clothes and that he can only eat certain foods. He is also very sensitive to light and sensitive to certain smells and sounds. Roderick fears that he will soon die because of his illness. Thus, the reader can conclude that the narrator’s friend suffers from hyperesthesia and hypochondria. The narrator also reveals that Roderick’s beloved twin sister Madeline has a “severe” and “long-continued” illness. Lady Madeline’s illness is described as “a gradual wasting away of the person”. It is said that she falls into death – like trances and that the doctors cannot do anything for her. Therefore, the narrator does not expect to see her during his stay.

In the meantime, he tries to cheer Roderick by painting with him and reading to him. Even though Roderick is very sensitive to sounds, he can tolerate the sound of stringed instruments and thus he likes to play guitar. After he sings, Roderick tells the narrator that he believes the mansion he lives in to be sentience (sentience = the ability to feel or perceive subjectively). The reason why he believes his house to be sentience is due to the arrangement of the masonry and the vegetation surrounding it.

Later, Roderick informs his friend that his sister has died and that he intends to preserve her body for a fortnight in one of the vaults within the main walls of the building, before they permanently bury her. Over the next week, the narrator observes a change in his friend’s behaviour and notices that Roderick’s “ordinary manner” has vanished. The narrator becomes more and more agitated and doesn’t know why. One night, as a storm begins, Roderick comes to his friend’s room and shows him how outside, the tarn surrounding the mansion seems to glow in the dark, even though there is no lightning. In order to calm his friend, the narrator decides to read Roderick a story, The Mad Trist, which is a novel about a knight who finds a palace of gold guarded by a dragon. As the narrator reads this story, strange noises and cracking sounds are heard in the house. When a shrieking is heard, Roderick becomes very irritable and hysterical and states that these screaming sounds are made by his sister, who is in fact not dead. He claims that Madeline was alive when she was entombed and that his twin sister has come to take revenge on him. At that very moment, Madeline appears and “falls violently in death upon her brother”, who then dies of his own horror. After witnessing this terror, the narrator flees and notices how lighting destroys the House of Usher.

Edgar Allan Poe does a wonderful job creating a dark and gloomy atmosphere throughout the story (even the day the narrator arrives at his friend’s house is described as “dull, dark and soundless”) by effectively using various Gothic elements and thus building up suspense.

The author only allows us to see the thoughts and feelings of the nameless narrator, since we are dealing with a first-person narrator. Therefore, the narrator becomes unreliable and we have to ask ourselves how much we can trust him and how we should interpret the story. The unreliability of the narrator can be due to his psychological instability or his lack of knowledge.

The Fall of the House of Usher does not only refer to the actual structure of the Usher house, but also to the Usher family itself. Thus, is has a double function and stands both for the decay of the house and the family. The author humanizes the house and uses adjectives such as “eye-like” (referring to its windows) to describe it. The house is the first “character” that is introduced to us by the narrator and it plays a significant role throughout the story. At the end, the Usher house “dies” along with the Usher family. The House of Usher is depicted as a ruinous and crumbling mansion, whose sings of degradation perfectly reflect Roderick’s deteriorating mental state. The decay of the Usher house and the Usher family is often seen as a symbol for the psychological destruction of the narrator.

The Fall of the House of Usher is a great short story and I recommend it to everyone who loves Gothic stories as this is truly a masterpiece of American Gothic Literature!