“It was there, beside the bed, a tall, shining cloud, that was almost a woman. It moved. It had eyes – and I ran.”
– Dorothy Macardle, “The Uninvited”
Ah, Halloween…is there any better time to read a Gothic ghost story by the glow of firelight? I was so excited to pick up “The Uninvited” by Dorothy Macardle this season after eyeing it for a while, and it didn’t disappoint. Written in 1941, the story follows a brother and sister as they escape from city life in London to buy a new home on Devon’s coast in England.
What follows are the strange hauntings that begin to occur in their new residence, a true blight on their dream home. I’m always a sucker for seaside ghost stories, as they provide lonely, isolated, and dangerous settings juxtaposed against stunning views. (It’s also the reason why my co-author and I chose a remote seaside location in Maine for our ghostly novel.)
I quite enjoyed this book, however, fair warning, the actual meat of the ghost story and haunting doesn’t really start until about ⅓ of the way through. If you’re planning to pick this one up, definitely file it under slow-burner novels, like Michelle Paver’s ghost novel, “Thin Air”. However, that should not deter you! After ⅓ of the way, the pacing picks up quickly, and I was glued to the pages. Macardle’s descriptions and lyrical pose are quite divine, as she paints beautiful settings against the backdrop of a house with a chilly past.
It was also interesting to find out a little more about the author’s background. Born into a wealthy Irish brewing family in 1889, Macardle was a writer, feminist, and activist, who spent time imprisoned due to her activities during the Irish Civil War.
“The Uninvited” was adapted into a popular film in 1944, Oscar-nominated for best cinematography, and remained in print until the 1960s, earning Macardle acclaim as being the Shirley Jackson of Ireland, but then her work vanished into the publishing netherverse. It wasn’t until 2015 that the Dublin publishing company Tramp Press rescued her story and re-printed it under their “Recovered Voices” series.
While somewhat dated in its social conventions, with a narrator whose treatment of women is a bit vexing at times, this novel nevertheless hits all of the high-note Gothic tropes and should be considered a cornerstone of Gothic literature. If you’re looking for an escape to a seaside haunted house that’s light on the spookiness and filled with pre-WWII British culture and food, then this book is definitely your jam.
Fans of “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” and Gothic classics such as “The Turn of the Screw” and “The Woman in Black”, as well as modern-Gothic novels like “Mexican Gothic” will more than likely enjoy this novel. Have any of you read “The Uninvited” or plan to? I’d love to know! Or, are any of you reading anything spooky that you’d love to share? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to check back for more upcoming news as well as updates on my forthcoming fantasy novel, “The Last Wizards of Tynedale”, with my co-author John Bladek. And if you’d like to be alerted of upcoming giveaways and magical news, sign up for my seasonal newsletter at the bottom of this post. (I don’t sell email addresses, btw. No one likes that, especially me, and that’s just evil and punishable by unicorn horn impalement. Truly.)
Thanks so much for reading!