Book Review: The Phantom Coach, edited by Michael Sims

This post modified from a review that originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission.

It's that time of year again: spooky stories and ghost tales abound, and we've all changed our Twitter names to something Halloween-appropriate. In the spirit of Halloween-reading, The Phantom Coach couldn't be more appropriate; for those of us also trying to read more classics, it's a double-whammy: Sims has curated a collection of Victorian ghost tales that celebrate the genre as much as the writers featured.

In the introduction to The Phantom Coach, editor Michael Sims (The Dead Witness; Dracula's Guest) explores why modern readers are still so entranced by classic tales from beyond the grave, writing, "the protagonists face the great chilling fact of human life: that it's brief, linear, and moves toward the grave as swiftly as an arrow. Ghost stories permit us to peek behind the shroud." Sims's chosen Victorian works do just that, ranging among topics such as lost children, lingering family spirits and haunted boating expeditions.

Sims's collection features a dozen authors, including Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling and Amelia Edwards, with many lesser-known and infrequently anthologized pieces in place of more commonly known works from the era. Sims introduces each story with a brief background on the author, notes about how the ghost story fits into the author's oeuvre and, where relevant, how the story relates to the others in the collection (Dickens, for example, edited several of the tales found here for his periodicals Household Words and All the Year Round). The pieces, arranged in chronological order, span the Victorian era, pulled from as early as 1852 and as late as 1907. Combined into one volume, these 12 stories give readers an excellent entry point into the spooky literature of the Victorian era--a time marked by a fascination with death and dying.


A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review.
The Phantom Coach: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Ghost Stories | ed. Michael Sims | Bloomsbury | September 2014 | Trade Paperback

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