(Book Review) In a Glass Darkly

I decided to take a few days off after finishing The Blitz to regain my sanity. As we all knew from the beginning, the Blue team ended up winning the contest (Ironically that's a red team post). So there you have it, the good guys won.

With that out of the way, let us get back to our review.

In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu, whom we have already featured in our weekly reading series, consists of five Horror stories, purported to be cases by Dr. Hesselius, a 'metaphysical' Doctor, the forerunner of the modern psychiatrist, who is willing to consider ghosts both as real and as hallucinatory obsessions.

I decided to buy this book after having read Carmilla and I can say that the book did not disappoint. The stories are told brilliantly, mixing elements from the Gothic tradition and Irish folklore. You can easily see why Le Fanu has established himself as one of the classic writers of Gothic works. I suppose you would like to see a small synopsis for the short stories, so here it goes:

Green Tea: An English clergyman is being haunted by an evil spirit in the form of a monkey which only he can see. He consults with Dr Hesselius in order to find a cure, all while the monkey grows more aggressive towards its victim.

The Familiar: A Former sea captain is stalked by a dwarf that identifies himself as 'The Watcher', being a constant reminder of an atrocity he committed in the past. The Captain will go through great lengths to try and get himself rid of this unwelcomed creature.

Mr Justice Harbottle: A judge finds himself on the receiving end of a terrible vengeance by one man he condemned. But are these real events taking place or just part of the judge's imagination?

The Room in the Dragon Volant: This one is a bit tricky, it follows a naive, really naive, Englishman who has found himself the inheritor of a large fortune. While traveling he falls in love with a beautiful unhappily married countess that wishes to be saved from her horrible husband. The following quote describes the story pretty well:

“What a fool I was! and yet, in the sight of angels, are we any wiser as we grow older? It seems to me, only, that our illusions change as we go on; but, still, we are madmen all the same.”

Carmilla: The story follows a young woman, Laura, who becomes the prey of the female vampire Carmilla, whom is introduced into our protagonist's home as a guest after a freak accident. Laura quickly befriends Carmilla, giving place to an interesting dynamic between the two, all the while in the villages nearby, young women start to die of an unknown disease. You can find more about it here.

If I had to rank them I would put Carmilla on 1st place, Green Tea and The Room in the Dragon Valet being close contenders for 2nd place, and with The Familiar and Mr Justice Harbottle in 4th and 5th place, respectively. That being said I found the 5 of them to be really enjoyable.

The works are now part of the public domain, and you can find them on gutenberg divided in three volumes. Volume 1 includes the first three stories. Volume 2 spans the first part of the 4th story. Volume 3 covers the second part of the 4th story along with Carmilla.

You can find the rest of my reviews here. As usual Coil subscriber can find some of my favorite quotes below:

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