iBook Review: Strange tales of a Cotswold Town Reviewed by Guy Dayen
Written in 1994, Strange tales of a Cotswold Town is a collection of weird and haunting stories, set in and around the town of Cheltenham, in Gloucestershire, England. This part of the country, known as the ?Heart of England?, is replete with small villages, incredibly beautiful vistas, and imposing buildings; some of which still retain their original splendor, and others which are forbidding and mournful ruins, mere shadows of their former grandeur. Its lengthy history makes the Cotswold region the perfect setting for the supernatural anecdotes related in the book.
Sissons weaves wonderful tales of hauntings, witch hunts, werewolves, wild chidren, and other manifestations of the bizarre, the unusual, and the occult. The stories are written in quite an understated and quiet way and they are reminiscent of the great classic tales of horror of the early twentieth century, when masters like M. R. James, E. F. Benson, Algernon Blackwood and Sheridan Le Fanu thrilled and scared us by using atmospheric details and strange happenings to make our hair stand on end, and let us feel for a brief moment that the fabric between our world and the other side can sometimes be frayed at the edges or torn away completely.
One of the great pleasures of the book is the way in which Denys Sissons uses the everyday details of life, and the quietly pastoral settings of Cotswold, to contrast with the incredible happenings he writes about. His tone is that of a friendly acquaintance, regaling his audience with a few impromptu stories while sitting around a warm fire, sipping at a glass of fine brandy. Because of this casual approach, the tales are eminently believable, and one is lulled by the beauty of the language and the fine use of vocabulary. One admires the great skill by which the story is told, and we congratulate ourselves in having found such pleasant company to spend a few hours with. And it is at this point, when the story suddenly takes a completely unexpected twist, that a shiver goes up and down one?s spine. Because the stories are so grounded in reality, it makes the fantastic utterly believable, and as the narration ends, one can?t help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, this or that event really did happen.
I enjoyed ?Tales of a Cotswold Town? a great deal. Sisson?s classical approach, where cheap thrills, easy scares and gory details are eschewed in favor of mood, careful detail and eerie atmosphere, makes this a perfect book to share with readers young and old. It?s a wonderful book to read to yourself for a good frisson of fear, but it?s also a great book to share with others, in a room with the lights turned way down low. (That?s why we love books on the iPad - what a setting we can create, when we don?t need a reading lamp to spoil the dark and disturbing spell scary stories weave !) You will find about a dozen excellent tales in this book, each as enjoyable as the last. If you enjoy a good old-fashioned scare, and you appreciate an author with an evident love of the English language, who can fashion beautiful descriptive passages, you will love this book. It?s a truly worthy addition to your iBook?s shelves.