Monday, October 15, 2012

James-A-Day: The Residence at Whitminster

I really am reading books that aren't MRJ or The Italian.  But most of my blogging energy is being used up by those two things!  Also we went out of town over the weekend and did cool stuff, and I'm starting to gear up for Christmas sewing...anyway I'll try to post about other things I'm reading soon!

I thought this was a very creepy story indeed, but the way James wrote it sort of made it more distant than I would have liked.  He was very interested in story structure and in detective stories, and he would play around with various styles.  Here, we have a mystery that is pieced together from several different sources: letters, diaries, eyewitness accounts and such.  I think it's well done, but because we always see the principal character at something of a remove, the creepiness is a bit mitigated for me.  What do you think of the structure of this story?

I did like how there are all these different clues to what's going on.  There's this sparkly glass thing, the missing cockerel, poor little Frank's death, the infestation of sawflies (a sure warning of evil, right?), and finally a description of the ghost itself.  Not to mention Saul's name, the incident as soon as he arrives, and the fact that the servants either try to please him or they leave.  The clues are sprinkled through time and place, and only about a hundred years after the events do things become fairly clear to the reader--they never really are clear to the characters.

"The Residence at Whitminster" was first published in 1919 in A Thin Ghost, a collection that takes its name from this story.  I really like that line, by the way, that "A withered heart makes an ugly thin ghost."

I had to look sawflies up.  There are many species, but here is a picture of one kind for you.  They are more closely related to wasps than to flies, but they're different than either.  Icky-looking things.

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