I thought that I had already read just about everything by Gaskell but on my last visit to my local library this one was sitting on the ‘new books’ shelf, so I had to borrow it.
This is a collection of nine short stories, although two of them are long enough to be described as novellas. I think that most writers hone their skills on short stories and I quite enjoy them. Sometimes the stories stick in your mind for 20 or 30 years, but I don’t think that will be the case with any of the stories in this book.
One of the novellas is called Lois the Witch and is the story of the Salem ‘witches’. I’m wondering when the first fictionalised version went into print.
Some of them are what I would call ‘fireside tales’ which would have been brought out and dusted down from the mind of the resident family tale teller on dark winter nights. I’m sure every household had one, even in more recent times (it was my mother in our family). They certainly have a feeling of folk lore about them, but I have read quite a few Celtic folk tales in my day.
Which brings me to what I found to be the most interesting thing about the stories, which was the language used. Elizabeth Gaskell uses quite a few words which are still used north of the border in Scotland. But I had an interesting comment from Joan in Pennsylvania about the phrase ‘redd up’ which Elizabeth Gaskell used, it means to tidy up or clean up. It seems it’s used by people from all different ethnic backgrounds there, but particularly by those of Dutch/German descent. Wherever it originated from I’m happy knowing that it continues to be used and makes the language richer. In future I’m going to ‘redd up’ instead of tidy up.
Anyway, I’m glad that I read Gothic Tales but I much prefer Gaskell’s longer works. If you want to read more about her work you might like to pay Austenprose a visit as a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Gaskell’s birth is being marked by people reviewing her work.