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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Seeing Double by Sara Maitland from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

Published December 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Seeing Double all about?:

Seeing Double is the story of a young boy who lives with his father and is looked after by a nanny. He seldom sees anyone else and there is a terrible reason why he is being kept away from other people.

What did I think?:

Although I’ve never read any of Sara Maitland’s work before, I’m very familiar with her name and have her non-fiction book, Gossip From The Forest as a priority read on my Kindle that now I’ve finally read some of her fiction, I simply must make time for in the New Year. For this short story, all I can say is wow. This little tale really floored me, it was so powerful in its nature and the clever reveals throughout which led up to an explosive ending were simply stunning. I’ve heard that Sara Maitland has a bit of a talent for short story writing (that’s putting it lightly!) but I wasn’t prepared at all for how marvellous her writing actually was and I’m delighted to finally have discovered her.

Now, the only annoying thing about Seeing Double is that I’m going to have to be incredibly careful what I tell you about it! I really don’t want to ruin anything and if I reveal the “big secret,” that our young male protagonist has, I’ll be doing exactly that. Let’s just say that we have a young boy born whose mother sadly dies when she gives birth to him. The midwife who assisted at the birth ends up being employed by the boy’s father as a permanent nanny to look after him and they are ensconced in a large house in the country with his father who becomes increasingly distant as he indulges his passion for nature, although they do have some tender moments playing together with a train set. Our protagonist doesn’t see anyone else apart from Nanny and his father, this includes the various servants that help out in the house until one day a maid enters his room. Both her and the boy find out the reason why he has been secluded and because of this, his life is changed forever:

“Grown-ups, he learned far too suddenly, spoke with double voices, cunningly, so that true and not true weren’t like white and black, like either-or, like plus and minus, they were like the bogs on the hill side, shifty, invisible and dangerous.”

As you can tell from the above quote, the writing is absolutely glorious and I felt just the utmost happiness when I was reading this dark little tale, purely for the gorgeous lyrical style and the way that the author uses her words to beautiful effect. Yes, this story has murky depths and goes to some strange and fascinating places so if you’re not into twisted tales, this might not be the story for you BUT I urge you to give it a chance because I’m now desperate to talk to anyone who has read this before and hear all their thoughts on it. I immediately felt so sorry for our protagonist when we learn what he has to deal with but I certainly wasn’t expecting the direction in which Sara Maitland took it in one of the most dramatic conclusions I think I’ve ever read in a short story. Have I convinced you yet? I’ve undeniably convinced myself that I need to read something else by this author ASAP.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Adventure Of The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Double Room by Ramsey Campbell from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

Published March 10, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Double Room all about?:

Double Room focuses on an older man who after losing his wife begins to hear strange and disturbing things in the hotel room next to him.

What did I think?:

I’ve only come across the author Ramsey Campbell once before and it was another short story, Getting It Wrong from the collection A Book Of Horrors. I did enjoy what I read there and was delighted to discover on opening a brand new short story collection, The New Uncanny, that the first story was penned by him. Like his previous short story, the author has a real knack for making the reader feel supremely uncomfortable word by word, page by page until the very satisfying and ominous finale.

As I mentioned, this is a new short stories collection for my challenge, after completing a previous book, Vampires In The Lemon Grove by Karen Russell in 2016. All my reviews for the short stories there if you’re interested can be found in my archive, available on the main page under the author’s name. Back to The New Uncanny though – I have to admit to feeling a thrill when an editor of a collection does a little introduction at the beginning of the book. This one, edited by Ra Page was especially fun to read and he does an excellent job of describing the uncanny:

“…the uncanny is that which may be familiar, or ordinary, but somehow disturbs us, makes us uncomfortable, and in some cases gives us the full on willies.”

Double Room is a brilliant example of the uncanny and uses a trope often employed by those writing horror stories, that is the double or doppelganger that our main character finds himself confronted with. His name is Edwin Ferguson and he’s a man recently bereaved after losing his beloved wife after a long illness. When we first meet him, he’s trying to get off with a couple of girls in a hotel bar and is instantly unlikeable for the reader. However, when he goes upstairs to bed, our attitude might change to pity when he starts to experience a queer thing. Every move he makes, word he speaks etc appears to be mirrored by the same behaviour/sound in the adjoining room to his own. At first, it seems like a coincidence but it is not long before the echo of his own voice begins to terrify him and he alerts hotel staff who show him that the room is clearly empty (*shiver*).

I don’t want to say too much about the plot but it is safe to say that his guilt over his wife’s death (more specifically, his internal reaction to it when her death happened) is playing on his mind and becoming tortuous. The words that are being repeated back to him from the doppelganger, as they are muffled, could be mis-interpreted as something else and seems to suggest that Edwin was relieved for her eventual death. By the end of the story, I had done a complete revolution of my feelings against the main character and just felt terribly sorry for him. The mocking echo of your own “double,” was quite a frightening aspect to read about and I think the author did a phenomenal job with both the plot and the creep factor which certainly gave me a few goosebumps along the way.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY CHALLENGE: The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes