But the tales are 'Gothic' in that they deal with the dark side of human nature more than the supernatural. Gaskell with her intense, beautiful prose, explores the themes of oppression, hatred, and general human cruelty in this collection. In a way, I was saddened to realize that this story still resonates today, as every generation has its own witch hunts.
No longer constricted by propriety, she was able to show a world operating beneath that thin veneer that Victorian morals dictated and through the looking glass: curses which held their sway over many generations, women with witchy powers, or who were assumed to be witches because of their barely hidden sexuality, men who wreaked true evil and cruelty and death by overreaching their powers in a paternalistic society, and yet, also and always, a woman's love and nurturing as her strongest defence against many of those evils.
Stories I particularly enjoyed were: Lois the Witch in which the reader gets a bad feeling for the fortunes of the heroine, Lois, as soon as it becomes clear shes headed for 17th century Salem and that not everyone is pleased to see her.
"The Old Nurse's Story (4 stars)-I thought it was interesting reading about how an old woman did what she could at a younger age to keep her young charge safe from phantoms that haunted the grounds. I tried to start the next story and found myself yawning and decided to just stop reading. So my frustration with the typos, the footnotes littered on every sentence just made me finally decide to throw in the white towel of surrender.
Afuera, menos mal que entonces no soy yo parte del mal. Pero afuera, dónde exactamente?
List of tales: The Old Nurse's Story The Squire's Story The Poor Clare The Doom of the Griffiths The Crooked Branch Curious, if True The Grey Woman For people with nostalgia, the past acquires a rosy glow; for others, that rosy glow is merely the imaginary light cast by the nostalgics, and they themselves can see only dirt, grime, and suffering. These are stories written from that darker turn of mind.
Another sympathetic and heartbreaking novella is the Crooked Branch, a tragic tale of love gone awry. These are not short stories but novellas and reading one does take time, simply because of the lovely details Ms. Gaskell has put in. Like a storyteller from old (I realize that she is from the old!!) she sits around the fire and tells you the story in a once upon a time style.