Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror
London, Bloomsbury, 2007, 239p
I love good old-fashioned Gothic stories that keep you up at night. And Uncle Montague's Tales kept me up not only because I was too terrified to turn out the lights and close my eyes, but also because they were incredibly addictive; I just wanted to read on!
Priestley's novel is seen through the eyes of Edgar, who visits his Uncle Montague to hear terrifying stories. Uncle Montague is one of those ageless Gothic characters - Edgar's father claims Uncle Montague used to tell him stories, as well as Edgar's father's father. He has a room full of bits and bobs, and each item has a story. As Uncle Montague tells the stories, Priestley builds the suspense, leaving hints and clues about a foreboding danger facing Edgar.
I really enjoyed the old-fashioned nature of the stories. The storyteller, Uncle Montague, is typically Gothic - tall and thin, with creepy long fingers and a high backed chair from which he tells his tales. All his stories are set in the past, like Victorian ghost stories. And they all contain children as their victims, which is ideal for the child audience.
And these stories are genuinely scary. All contain strange happenings or dark evils. They creep into your subconscious, making you scared of unexpected sounds and the dark corners of every room.
I can't quite pinpoint what is so scary, but I think Priestley has an incredible way with words and language. Even in stories that are only ten page long, he brings the characters to life and makes you, as the reader, live all the events. I found myself scared to fall asleep, in case the stories haunted my dreams.