RIP Short Story: P.G. Wodehouse, L.P. Hartley, and Edith Wharton (from Ghost Stories)

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  • RIP Short Story: P.G. Wodehouse, L.P. Hartley, and Edith Wharton (from Ghost Stories)

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This week’s short stories were fantastic. One was hilarious (bet you can guess which one) and two (the Wodehouse and the Hartley) seemed directly related to each other since they were both about writers of fiction. (Unfortunately, the stories I read this week are not in the public domain, so I can’t link to them for you.)

I don’t want to reveal too much about these three stories, so I’ll keep this brief. In P.G. Wodehouse’s “Honeysuckle Cottage” (written 1925), a London man, a writer of detective/thriller novels, inherits the country house of his now deceased aunt, who wrote romance novels. When he resides in the country home, however, he finds that it is haunted. I haven’t read much Wodehouse, but I know what I’ve read was funny, and this was no exception. The situation was ridiculous and I loved the haunted aspect of his life. Was this really happening or was it coincidence? At any rate, Wodehouse’s tone is light and fun, and the story was an enjoyable read. I love this type of ghost story! (Story not in the public domain.)

L.P. Hartley’s “W.S.” (published 1952) is also about a writer. In his case, the author begins receiving mysterious notes from an unknown person named W.S. As his anxiety increases, he begins to realize that he does know the identity of the man coming toward him – and he doesn’t want to meet him in person. While Wodehouse’s story was humorous, this one was intense. The ultimate resolution is a creepy one for the writer to consider. I greatly enjoyed this story, maybe because it wasn’t horrifically terrifying, just a bit creepy. (Story not in the public domain.)

Edith Wharton’s “The Looking Glass” (published 1937?) goes a different direction, focusing on interaction through a medium with a dead person. One woman, a massage therapist, takes advantage of her rich employer, who is obsessed with how old she looks and spends hours looking in the mirror every day. Using her power of persuasion, the massage therapist convinces the old woman that she can communicate with the dead; as the old woman begins looking younger, the therapist begins to have some supernatural interactions that she didn’t quite expect.  I must admit that Wharton’s story did not stand out to me this week. I’ve greatly enjoyed Wharton’s writing in the past, and in fact I recently finished a novella by Wharton that I liked, but this story just didn’t have enough creepiness or satisfaction. It was just an okay story. Maybe I felt that way because the other two stories I read this week were simply fantastic. (Story not in the public domain.)

Which of these stories have you read? Have you read other stories by these authors? Which did you like?

Reviewed on October 24, 2011

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • Sorry to hear the Wharton didn’t work for you. I haven’t read that one, but I have enjoyed her ghost stories in the past. It sounds like this might not be one of her best.

    • Nymeth » I don’t know that it didn’t work for me, it just paled in comparison to the other two I read this week. I’ll have to try more Wharton ghost stories! I like subtle ghost stories, I’ve found. Problem with comparison, or reading three for one post…

  • I’ve read all three of those — are you reading the Ghost Stories from Everyman’s Library? I got that for my birthday last year!

    I loved Honeysuckle Cottage too, it was really fun. There are some great stories in that volume. I’ve gotten distracted from the Norton Book of Ghost Stories, I just got caught up with another volume of Zola.

    I agree, that’s not my favorite Wharton ghost story. Kerfol is my favorite of the ghost stories, but there are some other great short stories as well — Roman Fever is really good, and Xingu is pretty hilarious.

    • Karen K. » Yep! That’s the collection. I love it because it focuses on all different kinds of ghosts and they are subtle enough that scared old me doesn’t get too freaked out…I’ll have to read more Wharton stories. I loved Roman Fever too! Very funny.

  • I have not ready any of these stories but a few days ago I did read a very good short story by Edith Wharton — “Mrs. Manstey’s View”-

  • Really, P.G.Wodehouse wrote something that could qualify for RIP? I never knew that, and I thought I had read all Wodehouse. I would love to get a hold of this one, I am sure I will like it.

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