Monday, August 15, 2011
Seven Gothic Tales: Review
Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) has been a very difficult read for me. Gothic novels are not, by rights, my usual reading fare but I was drawn to this book by the very intriguing Introduction written by Dorothy Canfield. So, I grabbed it right up at the Friends of the Library Booksale. And then, when I gave into temptation and signed up for the Gothic Reading Challenge, it seemed only natural to add this one to the list. My goodness, I didn't know what I was letting myself in for.
The seven tales are very uneven. The first, "The Deluge at Norderney," is brilliant. The descriptions of the flood and the plight of the people along the coast are very striking. The tales told by the small group left to their fate in the old barn draw the reader in and hold her captive. I was completely taken in by the final twist.
"The Monkey" is one of the tales that I would say is more gothic than most. It reminds me of some of Poe's best work. And there is an element of the supernatural involved. More spine-tingling than the others.
And then there is "The Supper at Elsinore"--a true ghost story that tells the tale of a lost brother and the two sisters who essential died when he did. The meeting of the three siblings is a very interesting take on the standard visit from the departed.
The final story that held any interest for me was "The Dreamers." Following the storyline was a bit rough...it was almost, but not quite like stream of consciousness writing. Lincoln would just start telling his tale and then he'd insert little asides. A more straight-forward telling would have been more to my taste, but the central nugget--who the mysterious woman was and what finally happened to her was worth a bit of wading in the "stream."
Dinesen is a very descriptive author. Sometimes too much so. But in the stories mentioned, she does her best job and the descriptions serve the tales well. The descriptions did not, however, produce quite the gothic feel that I was expecting--and this was particularly true in the remaining stories from the collection. She also is at her best when telling the story straight rather than following little side-stories as happens more often than necessary. I would love to be able to say more about this one, but I have been reading it off and on for so long that I've lost some of my earliest thoughts (that'll teach me to take notes). Not quite my cup of tea...three stars overall, with most of that rating being due to the four stories highlighted.