Gothic Tales, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (5 ratings)


Elizabeth Gaskell's chilling Gothic tales blend the real and the supernatural to eerie, compelling effect. 'Disappearances', inspired by local legends of mysterious vanishings, mixes gossip and fact; 'Lois the Witch', a novella based on an account of the Salem witch hunts, shows how sexual desire and jealousy lead to hysteria; while in 'The Old Nurse's Story' a mysterious child roams the freezing Northumberland moors.

Whether darkly surreal, such as 'The Poor Clare', where an evil doppelganger is formed by a woman's bitter curse, or mischievous like 'Curious, if True', a playful reworking of fairy tales, all the stories in this volume form a stark contrast to the social realism of Gaskell's novels, revealing a darker and more unsettling style of writing.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416 pages, notes, further reading
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780140437416

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Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.

Review by

These are quite different from modern horror tales. Some have supernatural elements such as curses, ghosts and doppelgangers. Others are more an exploration of the twisted side of human nature-- a son gone bad, the twisted frenzy of the Salem witch trials.I found them enjoyable--they won't keep you up at night, but will give you a bit to ponder.

Review by

A wonderful collection of some of the creepier Gaskell short stories. My personal favorites are The Old Nurse's Story and The Grey Woman. Lois the Witch is also well worth reading. Beware, though...Gaskell likes to inflict the sins of the fathers upon their children. Not lighthearted by a long shot. Best in small doses on windy wintry evenings.

Review by

Elizabeth Gaskell’s Gothic Tales are an interesting mixture of supernatural and social horrors; witchcraft (both real and supposed), hauntings, a murderous husband and a villainous son to name a few; and all are shot through with an atmosphere that makes the gothic genre so very enthralling, and is almost a character unto itself. I enjoyed (for a comparative definition of 'enjoyment') roughly 70% of the book; there was one story I simply could not get into, another - ‘Curious, if True’ - jarred oddly, not really appearing to belong in this collection, though under other circumstances I might have enjoyed it, and ‘Lois the Witch’, though one of the most readable tales, seemed to ride too heavily on the coattails of The Crucible, being in fact set amongst those very characters. The darkness of these stories - Elizabeth Gaskell does not seem to feel the slightest need to be fair to her characters - takes some warming to, yet there is something refreshing about a strong dash of irredemption. I wanted to read these stories to see if I would care to pick up one of Mrs. Gaskell’s novels, and the answer is an optimistic, if reserved, affirmative.

Review by

As with every collection, some pieces are better than others. In this book, there are four stories and novellas that I loved, one I had mixed feelings about and four I disliked. However, the strength of the four outweighed the weakness of the others.I was puzzled why the collection began with "Disappearances," which is more a series of vignettes than an actual story. It was based on real life disappearances that Gaskell had read about. A very weak beginning, but I see in the chronology that the pieces are printed in the order that they were published.The next story is "The Old Nurses Story," which is a wonderfully typical Gothic ghost story set in a creepy old English house. It was followed by "The Squire's Story," which really isn't so Gothic but interesting all the same. I also loved "Lois the Witch," a story that was obviously inspired by the actual Salem witch trial documentation. My favourite of all, however, was the final story, "The Grey Woman." It started a little slowly, but soon took off and Gaskell maintained the tension for the remaining 50 pages.I have the Penguin Classics edition (with the wonderful creepy Caspar David Friedrich cover), which includes a lengthy introduction. I found this intro helpful, as for one thing, I wouldn't have understood the story "Curious, if True" without it.Yeah, so the other stories really didn't do it for me, but because I loved the four that I do, I'll have positive memories of this book.As for Gaskell's writing, I suspect I'm definitely becoming a fan. I read and liked Cranford a couple of years ago and now know that I'll read more of her. Compared to other 19th century writers, she's not as excessively verbose, and I appreciate that.Recommended for: readers who want to take a literary trip to 19th century England.

Review by

Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favorite writers and I have enjoyed all of her books that I have read so far. She is so unrecognized, and it is such a shame because her work is so good. She has such a talent for creating believable characters and strong story lines. I truly adore her work. On the other hand, I have never been a fan of short stories because I feel that readers never get a real chance to connect with the characters and it is harder to establish a plot, development and keep the pace going without it feeling rushed. So I picked this book up to complete my collection of her work and hoped for the best. I have to say that I loved it. All of the stories in the book are worth reading with just the right amount of character development, suspense, horror and just plain creep factor. I have to say that my favorite story is the Old Nurse's Tale, I could not put the book down until the story was completed and I felt like my hair was standing on end the whole time. I think the mixture of creepy cold old home with tragic family secrets was brilliant and suspenseful. I would recommend this book to any fan of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels or any lover of Victorian Gothic Tales or novels, it is truly a book that belongs in any of these libraries.

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