Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The House of Silence - E Nesbit

I've been a big fan of Handheld books so was sorry to hear they had decided to wind up business and move on to new projects but also thought fair enough, publishing and bookselling are hard work and it's admirable to know when you've had enough. Reading 'The House of Silence' whilst I was away last week has really underlined what made Handheld so special though, and made me a great deal sadder that there won't be more gems like this to come.

E Nesbit is probably best known for her children's stories, unless you like weird/ghost stories in which case she's probably best known for Man Size in Marble which crops up in a lot of anthologies, including this one. it's very good so that's not surprising. I see I read the Greyladies Nesbit Collection on a previous Borders trip, it's a nice selection but only had 7, rather than the 18 tales gathered here. Handheld have always been excellent value.

'The House of Silence' feels like a comprehensive selection and covers a range of moods from the definitely scary to amusing romance. Much of Nesbit's charm comes from her sense of humour and the way she uses it to turn a phrase. The Haunted Inheritance only very loosely qualifies to be in a weird collection, but it's such a delightful thing that it might well be my favourite here, definitely a story to read when I'm feeling a little low. The Shadow by contrast is smartly unsettling, not terrifying, but a clever mix of suggestions that would make me hesitate to cross a dark room immediately after reading it, which I consider the best sort of ghost story.

The Pavillion is another favourite - on the surface it's as frothy as the crinoline gowns its heroines wear, then Nesbit goes deep into what love is or can be in a few elegant words and properly got me on the hook. Altogether there isn't a dud story, it's a book I've wanted for a long time (a decent Nesbit collection) and the reality of it more than lived up to the expectations - again, no duds here and I suppose there could have been. 

Buy this and indeed all or any of Handheld's weird collections whilst they're still available!

1 comment:

  1. I read and reread Nesbit as a child but never any of her adult work so I am glad to know about this collection.