The New Windmill Book of Nineteenth Century Short Stories.

This hard-back collection of short stories incorporates fiction written by such respected writers as Kate Chopin, Thomas Hardy, Charlotte Bronte and Maxim Gorky, to name but a few.

Before each short story there is a brief introduction to the writer, outlining some of their other works and a little of the significance of the piece featured in this anthology. This often adds to the reader’s understanding of the works, many of which are influenced by the personal experiences and backgrounds of the authors themselves. This is certainly true of Twenty-six Men and a Girl, by Maxim Gorky (whose pen-name ’Gorky’ means ’wretched’ in Russian, relating to conditions in his childhood). We are also told that The Poor Relation’s Story, by Charles Dickens contains a comment about the neglect of the poor and the poverty he lived with in his early years.

A thread of deception ties together stories about poverty, mental illness (The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a reflection on the ’medical treatment’ of her own experience of post-natal depression) and revenge, in Hop-Frog, chillingly told by Edgar Allen Poe. The anthology ends with Sherlock Holmes’ The Adventure of the Speckled Band, which is widely considered to be one of his most exciting cases.

I enjoyed this book for the skill of the writing and the content of the stories. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a touch of the sinister when exploring the relationships people have with each other, concluding in the unexpected.

The New Windmill Book of Short Stories, Ed. by Mike Hamlin, Christine Hall and Jane Browne (Heinemann New Windmills, an imprint of Pearson Education Ltd, 1992).