I don’t know about you, but I do love a short story. Sometimes I just don’t have time to lose myself completely in a book. My life is always such a rush, when I’m chasing round after two rather hormonal and gobby teenagers, a hyperactive puppy and an extremely busy husband, so occassionally I need to lose myself for fifteen minutes in a short story which I will be able to read completely in that time.
In the last few weeks, I’ve received a few excellent short story collections and I decided it was time to highlight these more on the blog. So I wanted to try and fit in a semi regular post where I review a short story from a collection I’ve either received for review or already have in my collection.
So to start this new feature off, this week I’m reviewing a short story from A Foot In The Grave by Joan Aiken and Jan Pienkowski.
I’ve been fascinated by this book since receiving it a few weeks ago. The stories in this book were originally published in 1989 and came about after artist, Jan Pienkowski created a haunting series of pictures. When he finished, he asked well known children’s author Joan Aiken if she would write some ghostly short stories to accompany them. The result can be now be found in this lovely book. Each story is accompanied by the original painting too.
Today I am going to briefly review the first story in the book, Cold Harbour. It probably won’t be the only one I review as I am really excited about reading the whole book and with Halloween heading our way, I am sure to feature more over the next few weeks.
Cold Harbour has an unexpected setting for a ghost story as you join the unknown narrator onboard a cruise ship setting sail for the Greek Islands. The narrator tells us all about Fred Skinner, a history teacher who earns extra money by lecturing aboard a cruise ship. He has bragged about his holiday position so much, that the school he works for decides to book the cruise ship for educational school holidays. So Mr Skinner finds his normally relaxing and pleasant holidays invaded by the kids that tease him and make him miserable on a daily basis during term time.
I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the main character, Fred Skinner. At times as I was reading I felt sorry for him, where as others I was disappointed in his attitude and greediness. As the story progresses I found I wasn’t surprised or bothered by what happened.
The descriptive writing in this story is simply gorgeous. It was so rich with detail, I could almost smell the Greek honey. The small coastal villages were really brought to life through the vividness of the descriptions. In fact, if I am honest, I would say the settings were more real to me than any of the characters were.
When the story drew to a close, I found the abruptness of the ending did leave me with more questions than answers, but I often feel that short stories are very good at doing that. They leave you pondering what might’ve actually happened.
An interesting, vibrant short story with an unusual setting for a ghost story.