There is an idea that the horror stories of a country is deeply rooted in the real life fears of its society .For example, England has many classic horror stories set in the city, a call back to the sudden Industrial revolution that turned their way of life upside down, while American stories commonly revolve around lonely rural homes, campfires, and things that go bump in the night - a definite tribute to the pioneers venturing into unknown lands. If this holds true, then the common thread in the six short stories from ‘Ghost Stories from Bengal and Beyond’ must say a lot about our country as well. Within each of these stories, no matter their plot, there is an overall theme of longing for a sense of home and belonging.
From the first story about a young man heading to his village from the city and the supernatural events he experiences, to the last about a family contacting their dead grandmother over a missing heirloom, the theme of identity and the need to be part of something bigger, whether for good or for bad is a very interesting look into the Indian consciousness.
Granted, this may be lost in the eyes of an eager ten year old looking for a quick thrill or goose-bump inducing chills since the stories very loosely fall under the ‘horror’ category, mainly relying on plot twists rather than actual spooky thrills. Reading this book under the covers with a torchlight is definitely the recommended method as most of the stories by themselves are slow burners, building up to conclusions that may disappoint a young reader diving in expecting horror or gore. This, however is not to detract from the collection as it does manage to pack a variety of tales in a very short book. ‘The Story within the Diary’ especially stands out with its Edgar Allen Poe themes of revenge and human behaviour.
The illustrations throughout also seem less horror and more gothic, using the ‘crosshatching’ technique to create wonderfully dark and tense looking images that go well with the pacing of the book.
All in all this collection of short stories neatly teaches the reader that sometimes, the real monsters are the ones in our heads!