Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Irish Short Stories: The Ghost and the Bone Setter -- Out of the Rose

Sometimes, it's just fun to read short stories and see how novelists manage to get a full tale told in a compact manner.  I read these two short stories within a really short time and was amazed at the penmanship:

Sheridan Le Fanu is known for his ghostly stories and The Ghost and the Bone-setter (from the Purcell papers collection) is no exception.  I found this story particularly enjoyable, because I could picture some narrating it around a chimney, during an extremely windy and rainy night, possibly around Halloween... 
It recounts the story of a Terry Neill, a bone-setter - basically our present-day chiropractor, whose turn it is to watch a castle while its owner is away.  The trouble is that one of the ghosts (because, let's face it, all castles have ghosts) like to descend from his painting and have a drink or two while walking around the rooms, so Terry has to overcome his fear and find a way to get rid of him.
I just loved the pace of the story, the dialect used to best describe the "heart" of the characters, and the humour that permeates this ghost story.  Great reading from one of the masters of gothic tales!

W.B. Yeats, on the other hand, is known for many, many things aside his literary work (which I have yet to start reading...).  Solution:  start with the short stories, and see how he tackled the challenges of this type of writing.  Out of the Rose (from The Secret Rose collection) takes us to the beautiful world of Celtic knights... 
A wandering knight helps peasants face thieves, and while he's lying injured on the grass, he tells his story to one of the peasants treating his wounds.  Suddenly, we are transported to a world of the Knights of St. John and the Knights of Palestine - to a world where a strange infection lead to corruption.  The Knights had to fight evil to escape corruption and the wrath of God.
This is the story of this knight as well, who, alas, will not have his story told to anyone else, as the peasant proves to be more interested in arranging cock-fights...
I was really surprised at the many twists in this story and came to appreciate Yeats's art of writing!

I thoroughly enjoyed these two stories, and now have more appetite for more:  it will be interesting to see who else from the famous writers has tried their hand in short stories...

Read for the Ireland Reading and Mystery and Suspense Reading challenges

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