I’ve said many times I’m not a fan of horror or ghost stories, but the gentle spookiness of the stories in my ghost story collection has been wonderfully fun. This week’s stories, “The Friends of the Friends” by Henry James (1896) and “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs (1902) were very different, but both of them left me with a sense of delightful unease. It made me happy to live in my own, non-ghost inhabited world.
In “The Friends of the Friends,” Henry James tells the story of two strangely similar people who have claimed to see ghosts in their lives. The two friends of the narrator, as well as the narrator herself, all remain nameless, which to me added to the eerie, anonymous feel of the story. Henry James’ careful and ponderous writing slows down the plot of the story: this becomes a psychological look at the narrator’s growing jealousy, rather than a plot-induced ghost story. I liked the overall feel of the story, and the twists at the end were wonderful. What really happened? We get everything through the perspective of the paranoid and unreliable narrator. I certainly enjoyed the unknown in “The Friends of the Friends.”
“The Monkey’s Paw” is a completely different feel, style, subject. Using mostly dialogue to drive his story, W.W. Jacobs tells of a mysterious monkey’s paw with the power to grant three wishes to each man who possesses it. Of course, the soldier who gives it to Mr. White warns against his using it, but the Whites cannot resist the temptation to try fate. I’m pretty sure I’d read this before, as it seemed quite familiar. I loved the outcome, and I’d highly suggest this story for the fan of ghost or horror tales. It was also tame enough for myself. Read it online here or listen to an NPR podcast reading of the story by John Lithglow.
I’ll attempt to get my regular short story posts up on Monday, from now on. I’m finding I run out of time by the end of the week! Next week: Stories by M.R. James, Saki, and Katherine Mansfield.