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A calico tabby stretches out beside a book: Ghosts by Edith Wharton.

Fall Adventures with Bees

Since the outdoors are no longer roasting, we can use the screen door again to get some air into the sitting room. Yet, I always forget that with the blooming asters our bee population is quite active and those bumbling bees always seem to make it through the screen. It’s not really a reason to panic. My lovely spouse is quite adept at gently shooing them back out the door and toward their best bee lives — but it’s not really myself that I worry about.

Rusalka loves bugs. She loves carrying them around. She loves bopping them. She loves stalking them across carpets and walls. I have seen the images online of what happens when cats meet bees and I do not want that to happen to our youngest cat baby. So more than panicking over the bee, we usually end up shouting and scrambling to get the cat away from the bee because she is invariably already barrelling towards it with both of her huge paws careening towards a sting.

By the time the bee is outside again, we’re out of breath and wondering if fresh air is really worth the circus of restraining the over-large tortie. We discuss closing the door, but by then another bee has wandered in. It’s the cruelest of autumn cycles.

A calico tabby stares into the distance, a paw over a book — Ghosts by Edith Wharton.

The Title Says It All

Edith Wharton’s Ghosts delivers exactly what the title promises, a collection of stories featuring ghosts and hauntings. Her definition is wide-ranging, and by that I mean that sometimes ghosts are not literal spirits. Wharton explores eerie presences and does so with a flare that lingers in the air over your shoulder as you read. Her prose is elegant and languid, drawing the reader in with lush descriptions and then twisting each tale to a disturbing and artful ending.

A calico tabby lies on black damask, framing a book titled Ghosts and leaning towards a small toy bat with a big smile.

On average, the stories are on the lengthy side and involve exploring the subtleties of creepiness. If you are looking for a quick punch in the gut, this is not the book for you. The reader needs to be ready to invest in each story and not be hunting for gore or violence. I will also warn that most of these stories do not have neat explanations or resolutions attached to them. Part of what Wharton uses to create a spooky atmosphere is this very lack of clear-cut solutions and storylines, constructing a sense of dread and mystery and the possibility of these events happening to anyone anywhere. Sometimes it can lead to a conclusion that is not traditionally satisfactory, which is definitely frustrating to some readers.

A calico tabby lies on her side. Beneath her is black damask patterned with bats, ghosts, skulls, and cats.

Favourite Stories

Of course, I have some favourite stories in the collection. There is ‘Kerfol’, which features haunted dogs as well as a haunted castle and is the tale that most traditionally fits a typical ghost story structure. I also loved ‘The Triumph of Night’, which is a ghost that is actually a premonition and contains a searing commentary of the costs of complacency and the burden of guilt it leaves behind. Lastly and not leastly, ‘Afterward’ is a classic that has transcended this volume and is often found in many modern collections of classic ghost stories. It features a ghostly event that can only be interpreted as ghostly after it happens and a house that is dubiously responsible.

These are the stories in which Wharton’s style is used to maximal effect and that definitely deliver that spine-chilling feeling that comes with the perfect amount of spooky.

A ghostly cat peers at a book. The book's cover is black with the white ghostly afterimages of flowers on it.

Not-So-Favourite Stories

The stories that I found the least entertaining were so because I felt they erred too much to the vague side, to the extent that as a reader I wasn’t only dissatisfied, I was confused or just plain frustrated. The first I’ll mention is actually the first of the collection and it’s responsible for making me put the entire book down for a while and walk away. ‘All Souls’’ features a woman who meets a strange woman in the road and then the next day mysteriously loses all of her servants. However, there is never a clear explanation or a real hint of an explanation provided as to why. It’s certainly disturbing, but not very satisfying.

Similarly, I did not care for ‘The Lady Maid’s Bell’ for the same reason. There’s a ghost and there’s a haunting and something happened…but what? For this story, the reader is more able to piece together the tale of a ruined marriage and jealous rages, but not in a way that lends the story much in the way of narrative sense.

A calico tabby paws at black damask fabric, rolling on a black book.

The Boo Sign Has Landed

Yesterday, my lovely spouse got to put out her favourite exterior decoration of the year — the Boo sign. It clatters against the door in the wind and ends up scaring us both on the first of the dark and spooky evenings, but that’s one of the definitive signs of Halloween approaching. Just as definitive as seeing the first of the boxes of Halloween candy appearing at the supermarket, and the pumpkins shining in the sun at the farmer’s markets.

I’ve already seen a few kids in spooky sweaters and pumpkin leggings that immediately make my lovely spouse wish there were more options for adults that wish to dress as loudly and Halloween-focused as possible. The local cinema is starting to air the scary films we love watching every year. The theatre season is winding up and the downtown is full of locals more than tourists.

We’re trying to fit in all of the Halloween fun without being hopelessly overbooked — but we’re probably going to end up there anyway!

A ghostly image of a cat lies beside a black book with white images on it.

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