2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 265 books.

Book Review: When Things Get Dark by Ellen Datlow (Ed.)

I’m not normally a big fan of short stories, but I’ve had great experience with collections curated by Ellen Datlow in the past and Shirley Jackson is one of my all-time favorite authors, so I was drawn to this one. Unfortunately, I found a lot of the stories to be lacking that element of Jackson-esque atmosphere and ambiguity, and to leave me shaking my head in confusion rather than in amazement at the oddities of the tales…

A story that ends abruptly or that lays out questions without any answers is not ambiguous, it’s unfinished. The subtlety of being able to write ambiguity that leaves the reader curious and questing to decide for themselves what they think happenedrequires s a delicate deft touch that not many authors have. Jackson managed it with aplomb, but most of the stories in this collection seemed to be questing for that Grail but never quite finding it…

There were a few notable exceptions, and they saved the collection for me. Tiptoe was one of the creepiest stories I’ve read in a long time, and masterfully plotted and presented. A Special Meal and A Trip to Paris also found the perfect balance between revelation and uncertainty, and delivered that eerie sensibility that I associate with Jackson’s best work. It is possible that if I went into the collection with less expectations, I might have felt differently about the stories. Still, when you’re paying homage to one of the greats you have to realize that you are inevitably going to be held to that standard, and for me a number of these stories – even by authors that I normally like quite a lot, just didn’t quite hit the mark…

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my obligation-free review copy.

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