My review of The Haunting Season, Ghostly Tales for Long Winter Nights, a short story anthology

Picture of the book held up in front of the window. Book cover has a picture of a lit candle in an old-fashioned candle holder with gold-tinged greenery circling around it. Authors names are listed on the leaves.

Last December when I was doing my Christmas shopping, I saw this in Waterstones and, on an impulse, bought it as a little present for myself. I think what drew me in was the gorgeous cover (my photo really doesn’t do it justice), and the descriptions of the stories felt very seasonal as well. I enjoyed all of them and though they didn’t all frighten me, they all contained frightening elements.

The stories included are: A Study in Black and White by Bridget Collins, Thwaite’s Tenant by Imogen Hermes Gowar, The Eel Singers by Natasha Pulley, Lily Wilt by Jess Kidd, The Chillingham Chair by Laura Purcell, The Hanging of the Greens by Andrew Michael Hurley, Confinement by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Monster by Elizabeth Macneal.

My favourites were The Eel Singers by Natasha Pulley and Confinement by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, though it was very hard to choose (The Chillingham Chair by Laura Purcell comes in close behind).

The Eel Singers was the first story I’d read by Natasha Pulley and her fascinating characters and atmospheric setting drew me in right away. I’ve subsequently gone on to read several of her novels. This was one of the stories that felt creepy but not downright frightening to me, which I count as a good thing (I like being scared, but I’ve found that my tolerance for horror has waned over the years).

On the other hand, I found Confinement by Kiran Millwood Hargrave to be terrifying. The images I formed in my mind from reading this story are still with me. I wouldn’t read this one alone in the dark at night! That said, the writing is excellent, as is the way the story is structured. I felt sucked into the story world and unable to escape.

This Christmas, I’ll be gifting this book to the Gothic fiction fans in my life.