Monday, June 29, 2020

Summer Kitchens - Olia Hercules

It looks like lock down might be extended in Leicester, but not Leicestershire, which is not happy news from my point of view. Most of my dearest are outside the city limits, and last night I was sorely tempted to pack a suitcase and flee. Calmer reflection convinced me that I'm probably better off at home albeit alone. Suggestions that English visitors might have to quarantine for two weeks if they go to Scotland was even less encouraging. At this point I'd rather hear some hard no's instead of all the vague maybes that keep getting my hopes up.

Lock down at home does have it's upsides though, and one of them has been a run of really good cookbooks, the latest of which for me is Olia Hercules' 'Summer Kitchens'. This is another book I've looked forward to for a while, and which like Gill Meller's 'Root Stem Leaf Flower' has immediately far surpassed my expectations.

It's a collection of 'recipes and reminiscences' from every corner of Ukraine. I could stand to learn a lot more about Ukraine (I've actually looked at a map this evening, something which always makes me feel old, it's changed a lot since I sat in a classroom with a map on the wall*). The recipes look great and there's probably actually more of them that I'll use from this book than from either 'Mamushka' or 'Kaukasis', the photography is wonderful too. It really celebrates the people, food, and places the book talks about and is perfect for a bit of arm chair travelling.

It's the reminiscences part of the book that makes it really special though. Every recipe comes with context, and there are essays on a number of subjects - a discussion of traditional Ukrainian ovens (pich) including some of the superstitions around them has been a particular favourite so far, but I've got more to read. There's even a section of recollections that people had sent to Hercules which caught me unawares. I ended up so over emotional that I had to go and make a cup of tea and then a honey cake to get a grip on myself again. It's not a sad section, but an equally beautiful and generous addition to a book that is already both those things in spades.

The cake was 'Lyuba's honey and berry teacake'. I made it because I was seeing my mother and sister so a big slab of cake felt justified and it is wonderful. It uses lard instead of butter which is something I'm not yet used to baking with, and tastes even better in the couple of days after baking. It's not a sweet cake but the honey makes it rich enough to be filling, and it is indeed very good with an aromatic or herbal tea. I might share the recipe here sometime, but for now I'd say instead to buy this book.

Whilst life is still carrying on at a slower pace it's full of things you might want to eat, and it's a joy to read too. That's a great combination at any time, but I particularly appreciate it right now. It's not every cookery writer who gets better from book to book (though there are plenty who do) but Hercules is doing just that. There's a confidence and style about this one which I'm find particularly beguiling and reminds me of everything I love about Claudia Roden's writing. It really is a wonderful book.

*Our primary school was old enough to have a map with a good quarter of the world still shaded in red still hanging around, also outside toilets when I first started - which were freezing in winter, and spidery all year round. The old map was a curiosity in a sort of store room behind where we had art lessons, not one we were taught from.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Summer's Lease - Thom Eagle

I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I haven't read the universally lauded 'First, Catch' yet - though I do now have a copy which is near the top of my to be read pile. 'Summer's Lease' was my personal celebration that my local Waterstone's is open again and I can once more buy or order books locally with ease.

It's all to easy with books bought like this to never quite get round to reading them (I have shelves full of things bought with giddy enthusiasm but not yet read to prove the point) but fortunately the combination of weather so hot that all I've been able to muster any enthusiasm for is reading and actually opening the book, meant that I read it over two days. Which is why I've now bought 'First, Catch' - because 'Summer's Lease' is brilliant.

I might have read it a week before but that the first few pages sent me off to bake bread (in those days when it was raining a lot and cold enough to make that attractive) which distracted me, but there's no force on earth that would have made turning the oven on seem like a good idea in my little flat this week. Reading those pages again did make me wish for a really good bakery in Leicester city centre though. An M&S baguette (which I'm not knocking) is as good as I can find locally, it's not always enough.

'Summer's Lease' does have recipes in it, but in a whilst we're on the subject you could try this sort of way that is almost incidental to the main point of the book, which is to talk about the why and how you can make something of summer's glut whilst cooking without heat. It's a mix of philosophy, notes, opinions, memories, observations, and experience, it's also a page turner.

There are four chapters which discuss breaking, salting, souring, and ageing. It was a couple of pages into breaking that I went off to make bread, overcome by a want to hear the crust crackle as it came out the oven. I hadn't thought of the importance of breaking things apart, or breaking them down, in cooking but now that I have I feel like everything has changed. Simple things like why it's better to tear some herbs apart rather than chop them, or the advantage in tearing apart ripe fruit or tomatoes for a salad - the better to interact with the dressing, now make a lot more sense.

I hadn't much though about the best time to add salt to a salad either, but testing the theory on some ripe tomatoes last night has convinced me that t does make a difference. It's also convinced me that I really need to be prepared to get my hands dirty more, especially handling meat. The way Eagle talks about it you can feel the changes in texture that tell you something is happening, and also when something is ready. Again, I'm not sure that I've ever really seen this explained so clearly before, although that's possibly because I've never particularly wanted to make something like a steak tartar so it just hasn't come up. It might be that I'm still not interested in steak tartar, anymore than I am in raw oysters (I've tried, but I just can't), but that doesn't diminish the lightbulb moment of understanding why things work together, and what they're doing.

The big thing here though is just what good company Thom Eagle is in this book. He encourages experimentation in the kitchen, but also cautions against the desire to try and make everything yourself (whilst acknowledging how seductive the lure to do so is). There are plenty of fermenting and curing projects which would be both distinctly antisocial, and eventually yield results that won't be as good as the product you can buy. Instead the focus is on things that there's a genuine benefit for the home cook in tackling, along with an admission that things will go wrong and turn out badly from time to time.

As fermenting becomes increasingly fashionable this is a particularly useful thing to read and understand - I would have been happy to see a brief discussion about whether it's yeast or mold expanded on, but at least I have somewhere to start researching from (something nasty happened to previous sourdough starters that I'd very much like to avoid in future). I really enjoyed reading this, and expect to refer to it a lot more in the future - my moment of enthusiasm in Waterstones served me well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Woman in the Wardrobe - Peter Shaffer

'The Woman in the Wardrobe' is by the same Peter Shaffer responsible for Equus, The Royal Hunt of the Sun' and Amadeus - which surprised me a bit at first, but on reflection makes sense. 'The Woman in the Wardrobe' is from 1951 and feels like an homage to locked room mysteries, one that's quite happy to make fun of it's source of inspiration as well as show considerable affection for it.

There's no specific date suggested for when the action takes place, but the fact that the local hotel has been involved in a couple of seedy divorce cases gives it a 1930's kind of a feel (I've been googling divorce law and London gun shops for this - I really hope I don't end up on some sort of watch list - in 1937 cruelty, desertion, and insanity became grounds for divorce, so the need to prove adultery would not have been so pressing). Service revolvers are a plot feature too, but Wikipedia tells me that they're likely First World War ones.

I've looked all this up because part of the charm of the book is that it sits in the suggestion of a past rather than feeling like it's rooted in it's own contemporary world. A character like amateur sleuth Mr Verity, would always have to belong to an earlier time of larger characters than out own world (whenever it is) makes you feel are quite possible. 

Mr Verity is a wonderous creation, a fat man in his 60's, we first meet him carrying a mauve bathing suit heading for the sea. His hobby is collecting antique sculpture (with scant regard for export laws) and being right - the police respect him almost as much as they dislike him. 

The woman in the wardrobe is a waitress - Alice Burton. It's an awkward place for her to be found as on the other side of the door, in a room with locked doors and bolted windows, is the dead body of a blackmailer.

The whole book bowls along fueled by a mixture of wit and humour. There's definitely a theatrical edge to it, and the pace is such that you don't really have time to pick faults in the plot. The twist at the end is an absolute peach and very much of a piece with the general underlying humour of the book. It's a fun mystery that resolves itself convincingly enough but the real joy is in Shaffer's descriptions and details - especially on the subject of Mr Verity and Inspector Rambler. This is a tremendously enjoyable addition to the British Library Crime Classics series. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

House of Weeds - Poetry by Any Charlotte Kean, Illustrated by Jack Wallington

Sometime last year I made a resolution to read more contemporary poetry, and thanks to Isabelle Kenyon and Fly On the Wall Press I'm keeping that promise. She's sent me a few things I wouldn't otherwise ever have come across and 'House of Weeds' is one of them.

Now feels like a good time to be reading poetry - in this case because the individual poems, and even the whole collection, are short enough to be read even when current events keep sending my mind skittering off in other directions.

I particularly like the collaborative nature of this collection - each poem takes a weed and personifies it, with Jack Wallington's illustrations directing the reader to a particular image or association. They interpret Kean's words in quite a specific way, and I assume that she in turn directed Wallington about what she wanted.

Poetry with illustrations just like this isn't something I'm particularly familiar with and I've found the specificity of it interesting. The pictures impose a particular reading, without them there would be more room for interpretation. This way the author has much more control over the reader, and that in turn carries an increased challenge to agree or disagree with the combinations of word and image in front of you.

That challenge is further underlined by the personal nature of Kean's characterisation of her different weeds - some resonate with me, others are at odds with my sense of specific plants and the types of misfit she associates them with. It's the surprise that comes with being at odds that makes this collection compelling.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain & Ireland - Kevin Crossley-Holland

I think this is technically a children's book, Walker Books certainly specialises in publishing for children, and there's something about the illustrations that suggest that it's meant for younger readers, but there's nothing about it that isn't equally satisfying for the adult reader as well.

I had this on my wish list and a really wonderful friend (she has a habit of picking the books I most want off that list) bought it for me at Christmas - I've been enjoying it a few stories at a time ever since.

There's a quote on the back of the book from Philip Pullman that simply says "This great storyteller", and I can think of no better words to describe Kevin Crossley-Holland. What makes this collection so good (for young and old alike) is the way that he strips the stories back to their basics and then adds just the right amount of personality and poetry to make them not just come alive, but to sing for the reader.

Some are barely a couple of paragraphs long (Boo is particularly good - a nervous young woman alone in her fathers house secures doors and windows with all possible diligence, only to hear a voice say 'That's good - now we're locked in for the night' - how can a ghost story get better than that?) most run to a few pages, and there are some like Tam Lin which stretch a bit further.

There's everything here from tales of fairies, to ghost stories, taking in adventurous epics, love stories, and battles of wits along the way. Some feel ancient, others sound like they might be more modern in origin - but they're all good, and the long twilight of midsummer is my favourite time of year for stories like this. It's a time when anything sounds like it might be true and you can never be quite sure of what you're seeing. I can think of nothing better to read by the dying embers of a campfire (even if it's only at the bottom of the garden) at the end of a day. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Coming Out of Lockdown

It's been a difficult week, and as I'm writing this at 4.30 in the afternoon in the near dark with yet another thunder storm rattling around me (3 days of them now) it feels like nature is doing everything it can to add to the general sense of discombobulation.

Lockdown restrictions are lifting in a series of confusing ways across England, differently in Scotland (I really want to see my dad, I'm very homesick for Shetland, I'm hoping that it'll be possible to visit him before too long, but have no idea when it'll be deemed safe to do so) but even as things lift, what's obvious are the way things have changed.

The thing I'm currently finding hardest to deal with is he change in atmosphere around the city. The park which was a solace for most of the last 3 months isn't any longer. There's a group of up to 20, mostly middle aged men, who have taken over both sides of the path at the narrowest point in the park which is also the middle of it. They drink steadily throughout the day and though it would be unfair to say they're threatening, they are intimidating. Walking through them feels like an intrusion. Their music drowns out the birdsong, and whatever is rustling around in the bushes these days is larger than a rat. (They've been rained out by the storm, and it sounds like a few of them are having an argument under the archway that leads to the garages of this flat)

The city itself is busy again but people look like they're much more on edge - some carefully keeping 2 meters distance, others brushing past like you're invisible and ignoring the carefully laid out one way systems. Queues to get into the newly reopened shops are... long, I haven't really had this with the corner shop style supermarkets in town and after months of nearly empty streets it's proving hard to get used to. Some public toilets are open, but even between them and the deluges of rain we've had in the last couple of weeks there's still an overwhelming smell of urine in a lot of the alleyways too.

Now that I can go out I've never wanted to stay in more.

That edginess is even more obvious online, it's probably cowardly to stay quiet on some topics but equally now doesn't seem like a good time to try and speak out on sensitive subjects when you can't do it face to face. To try and keep myself from falling down rabbit holes on twitter I spent most of the last few days binge reading my way through Sarah J Maas 'Court of Thorns and Roses' series. It sounded promising, though I hadn't realised they're aimed at young adults.

I don't really have much to say about them - there are interesting ideas which could have been better
handled, the quality dips as the books go on, but it's possible the rest of the series might get better (I think there are more books planned). I wanted something fairly mindless that I could bury myself in, and I managed to do that, but I was also hoping I'd find another Naomi Novak (I'm thinking of Uprooted and Spinning Silver) or Katherine Arden, and didn't. They were neither good or bad enough to say much more about here. 

The relative break from everything did help me step back from all the crap though, and I do feel more able to deal with everything, and that's a better place to be in than I was last week. Now I just need the storms to blow over. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Root Stem Leaf Flower - Gill Meller

I'm struggling with the lack of nuance on social media this week and how much general frustration and anger is on display (I'm thinking specifically of a spat sparked by a picture of a colourful roundabout in Musselburgh that Chris Packham posted - it got jumped on because many of the species were non native). I'm absolutely not immune to it - as I worry more and more about what my job prospects are and see more friends facing redundancy and continued uncertainty - it's really hard not to lash out, or fall into pointless argument. I'm not always succeeding at avoiding these things but I'm going to try really hard today.

One thing that's not causing either anger of frustration is 'Root Stem Leaf Flower', I've been cooking from this book a lot over the last 10 days or so and it's every bit as good as first impressions made me hope it would be. So far the only downside is in being unable to share the things I'm making.

The recipes are arranged seasonally but because I'm buying my veg rather than growing them I'm not following it particularly seasonally. Availability is relatively limited at the moment, Leicester Market never quite closed through lockdown, but it did contract. It's slowly expanding again but the variety isn't there. That's down to a combination of wholesale prices being too high with vendors not feeling they can pass on the increases, and goods just not being there - the effects of the wet winter were already obvious in the price and quality of Lincolnshire produce back at the start of the year.

It's been harder to keep track of time through lockdown anyway, and realising that the fruit and veg I see for sale hasn't changed anything like as much as it would in other years has added to a general sense of stasis, and also a nagging unease. This post keeps veering off in ways I was not planning on; what I meant to say was that the wintery baked leeks and dill were delicious, and so were the autumnal roast peppers and shallots (although the leeks felt wintery, roast peppers are great whenever).

I think my favourite recipe so far has been the aubergines and roast tomatoes for everything though - it sums up all the things that I'm loving about this book. It's simple both in terms of the ingredient list and what you need to do with them. It's delicious - and economic which is always a bonus. And it stands out thanks to the addition of some crushed fennel seeds. I guess there's nothing especially revolutionary about fennel seeds, but they would never have been an obvious choice for me to use and they're the thing that turns a try of agreeably roasted veg into something memorable.

My favourite thing about the book is that it's absolutely full of recipes that do the same thing - either taking a vegetable that I don't normally get very excited about (I'm looking at you broccoli) and making it sound great, or something that I like (hello carrots) and turning them into total stars. The last time I felt this enthusiastic about brussels sprouts was reading Anja Dunk's 'Strudel, Noodles, and Dumplings'.

Despite my best intentions to reduce the amount of meat in my diet I haven't always done very well at finding recipes that inspire me, but this book really does. That it's come at a time when I'm spending more time in the kitchen and have re-found my enthusiasm for cooking feels like an absolute gift amongst the general wreckage of 2020. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

A Second Ishbel Shawl

I liked this pattern so much that after the orange version (which has gone to my sister) I started another one straight away. This time I went up a couple of needle sizes and added a repeat of the vine pattern as well as using a marginally thicker yarn.

The yarn is a cone of Jamieson and Smith's Shetland Heritage Naturals* in a dark grey. It's not as thick as the jumper weight or spindrift yarn that I'm used to, but slightly heavier than a lace weight. I think the yarn on the cone is oiled for machine use - it certainly doesn't feel quite the same as it does in balls, or have the particular sheepy smell about it (though I got that in spades when I washed it). Regardless it's really lovely to knit with.

It also really needs to be blocked before you can tell exactly what you've got. I spent almost the whole time I was knitting this worried that the change in needle size was going to ruin the definition of the pattern, even more because it's quite a fuzzy wool whilst you knit with it. Turns out I needn't have worried, it's dressed up beautifully with lovely crisp definition. The increased stitch size means the difference between the 'right' and 'wrong' sides in the stockinette stitch isn't so obvious either which I count as a bonus.

The Heritage yarn is still fine enough to make a really light shawl, which is perfect for the current weather we're having. It's soft, warm, and drapes really nicely. I used a spindrift in a blue colour for the last 3 rows and like the slight change in weight there as well.

I love this grey colour, which is perhaps the only problem with this shawl - shade wise it's close to a lot of the clothes I wear and so likely to get lost a bit - though calling that a problem is a bit of a stretch.

I'm quite tempted to start a third Ishbel, it's a satisfying pattern to knit, easy without being boring, and everything else I've queued up is going to demand more concentration than I feel like giving at the moment.

The pattern is by Ysolda and a good place for relative beginners to lace/openwork wanting to tackle something interesting.

*£33 for a 500g cone rather than £3.30 for a 25g ball is a bargain.

Friday, June 5, 2020

The Accidental Countryside - Stephen Moss

This was the last book I bought before bookshops locked down, it felt appropriate then, and even more so now - almost 3 months later. The subtitle is 'Hidden Havens for Britain's Wildlife' and I'd describe the book as a sort of manifesto for how we can make space for wildlife in relatively urban settings and the benefits that has all round.

It's very much preaching to the converted in my case, to the point that the only criticisms I have are that this is a book that could really do with an index, and if not an index at least a bibliography, or list of further reading.

What we do get is a comprehensive list of places (railway embankments, roadside verges, old gravel pits, and similar odds and ends of land) and some of the work that's being done with them to create wildlife reserves, or otherwise create space for nature. When it works it's brilliant, although sadly for a lot of these spaces their status is fairly unofficial and they can be easily lost to development.

There's also a persuasive argument for building on greenbelt rather than brownfield land. We have a fixed perception, particularly in England (the debate is somewhat different in Scotland, I don't know enough about Wales) that farmland and countryside are more or less synonymous, and that farmland is a good place for wildlife. The reality is that a lot of farmland is an industrialised monoculture that actively discourages natural diversity (messy, machine cut hedges which are full of gaps are an example of this that I particularly dislike).

It's also true that people in cities need more access to green spaces, so why not start putting them in cities where the people are? Quite apart from anything else it's a brilliant way to build an interest in wildlife, and help people learn how to be around it. The point is made a couple of times that a nature reserve is not the same thing as a park.

I'm lucky in Leicester in that the council have taken a light touch approach to the riverside and parks around me. They're maintained in such a way that they feel safe for human use, but with enough bits left untended to encourage a decent range of birds and insects. We also have Bradgate Park about 5 miles north of the city centre. It was once the home of Lady Jane Grey, and there's still a Mulberry tree in the grounds of the now ruined house that was meant to have been a gift from Raleigh. There's also belladonna growing in odd corners. It's another landscape which is expertly managed to provide space for people and wildlife (although perhaps more accurately deliberate rather than accidental countryside).

We could be luckier though, there's a biggish redevelopment of part of the riverside going on at the moment which is going to be housing, but could have been something else altogether that might have been a significant draw into the city.

Getting back to the book, Moss also looks at the impact humans have had on the landscape since ancient times, and how we've created, as well as destroyed, habitats. One of the first he discusses is the Broch on Mousa in Shetland. Storm Petrels use it's walls as a nesting sight, somewhere they're well protected from predating gulls. There's an irony here in that the Broch's ancient inhabitants very probably used these birds as candles (they're very oily, the details are not pretty and can't have smelt pleasant), their descendants certainly did well into the 19th century.  The way peregrines are colonising cities comes with no such associations and is something that I find deeply hopeful.

That sense of hope runs through 'The Accidental Countryside', over and over there are examples of things that can be done to make space for nature. They range from the simple and cost effective option of reducing how much verges are mown to new housing estates building in genuinely wildlife friendly measures (which can add value so it's not asking very much of developers to do more of it).

A consistent theme throughout lockdown is how important, and helpful, so many of us have found observing more of the nature on our doorsteps, which is why this book feels so relevant to this moment.

 Bradgate, where the dog couldn't fathom how laid back the ducks were (kept responsibly on a lead at all times). The deer in the bottom picture are in an area that people are kept out of. They have the whole of the park to roam, but there are sanctuary areas throughout too.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Seafarers by Stephen Rutt - Out in Paperback

The Seafarers, A Journey Among Birds is out in paperback tomorrow. I read this book at more less this time last year (early July to be specific) when I'd just come back from Shetland. It's a world that seems a lifetime ago; I had a job but would learn I was being made redundant a couple of weeks later, and was desperate for change. The changes 2020 have bought aren't really the sort that I'd have chosen, but relative isolation has had some upsides and at least one of those started with this book.

I liked bird watching as a kid, but it was a hobby that fell by the wayside when we moved to Leicestershire (the logistics were more complicated and other things came along) even if I never lost the basic interest. Reading 'The Seafarers' last summer was a gentle reminder of something I was missing, and since reading it I've been paying more attention not just to the wildlife around me, but also to the debates around it.

The increased awareness of the birdlife around me has been a gift, especially this spring. I think it's a gift that a lot of us have been grateful for, and I hope that it will feed into an increased consideration of, and protection for, wildlife generally - it just might. Though it's anybody's guess if that will be enough.

Anyway - if you missed The Seafarers first time round it's a wonderful book by a really gifted writer at the start of what promises to be a really interesting career. I lent my copy of 'The Seafarers' to my partner so it's locked down out of my reach at the moment and I can't do much more than read my original review of it here. If money wasn't such an issue I'd buy myself the papaerback to refer back to. It'd be useful right now as I've been reading Stephen Moss's 'The Accidental Countryside' and I'd like to do a better comparison of some of the thinking between them.

There are a few things that made this book so special that are worth repeating. The choice of species to focus on - many of them are birds that we take for granted a bit, but a focus on Razorbills rather than Puffins when you want to examine the plight of auks generally is arguably more illuminating.

It would also have been easy to make this a book that focused on mental health, a subject that's touched on, but which remains an underlying theme - it's most definitely not another book that promises redemption or recovery in wild places, though it does show that a shift in perspective or priorities can be really helpful. I know that the point that I really fell for this book was in the ways that Rutt acknowledges the privileges that open these spaces for him. Again, it's done lightly, and I only noticed it because it's absent from a lot of the other nature writing I've read.

Finally it's the sheer range of issues, ideas, and anecdotes that are covered that makes this book such a joy to read. It was one of my books of the year for good reasons.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Japanese Ghost Stories - Lafcadio Hearn

I saw something about this book last summer, bought it, and have been dipping in and out of it ever since. There's been a sort of synchronicity about Hearn for me since then - having never heard of him before his name has kept popping up, so much so that I'm wondering why I'd never heard of him before now.

He's a fascinating character in his own right; born on the Ionian island of Lefkada in 1850 his mother was Greek, his father Irish. The family moved back to Ireland but the marriage failed, in 1854 his mother returned home alone and Hearn was raised by his great aunt, his father was posted to India in 1857, remarried and Hearn never saw him again. Hearn is sent to school in England until his aunt is financially ruined (it's quite Dickensian at this point) and he lives in the East end of London in reduced circumstances for a couple of years. 

In 1869 he arrives in Cincinnati and embarks on a career in journalism. He illegally marries a former slave - which doesn't work out, but his career does and in 1890 he arrives in Japan with a vague understanding with his publisher that he would provide material for them. He breaks with them but remains in Japan until he dies from heart disease in 1904. He marries again there and has a family, a teaching career at a couple of universities as well as his writing, and takes Japanese citizenship. 

It's a full life by any standard. The stories he collected in Japan are seen as classics in their own right, infused with his own memories of Irish superstition from his early childhood. I don't know enough about either the Japanese tradition or Irish folklore to see where one ends and the other begins so I'm taking the word of Paul Murray who has edited and introduced this collection. 

The introduction, chronology, suggested further reading, and notes are all admirable though. I can be lazy about reading introductions but this one was more than worth the effort, not least because a lot of the stories have a vampiric element to them and there's an interesting discussion about how that sits with what's happening in European fiction at the same time. 

There's a mix of stories here, some belonging firmly to a horror genre, others not so much but still dealing with the supernatural. They're all concise and elegant, Hearn is also a master of the eerie. It's a rich and wonderful collection that I've been enjoying a lot recently. There's something about the long twilight of summer that really suits stories like this. When the half light makes it possible to half believe almost anything. Twilight also suits the underlying melancholy of some of these stories whilst thoroughly accentuating the horror of others.

It's an excellent collection, and a really well put together edition. I really recommend it.