THE VILLA AND THE VORTEX by Elinor Mordaunt #BookReview


Edited by Melissa Edmundson

Handheld Press 2021, pb, £13.07

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Handheld Press is a small but prestigious imprint, set up by Kate McDonald (a literary editor and a  former lecturer in British literature) particularly devoted to unearthing forgotten fiction and authors who deserve to be rediscovered.

The present volume collects nine supernatural stories first published between 1916 and 1924 by Elinor Mordaunt. Distinguished editor Melissa Edmundson provides an exhaustive and insightful introduction about Mordaunt’s life and literary work.

Although a few stories are slightly tainted by a convoluted way of writing – somehow typical of a long gone era- at her best Mordaunt pens beautiful tales written in an elegant narrative style, apt to entice even the modern reader.

Fine examples are the disturbing The Weakening Point, portraying a young man whose life is affected by a scary dream he keeps having, year after year, on the night before his birthday and

 The Country Side, a dark drama where a jealous wife, poorly adapted to country life, gets evidence of her husband’s infidelity with a little supernatural help.

In the overlong but interesting The Fountain the spirit of a deceased, unhappy wife haunts her house and her husband in the form of a spreading dampness due to an invisible water, while in

 In Vortex, a playwright manages to obsess the actors playing in his comedy to the extent that they become unable to separate their real lives from that of the characters they represent.

My favourite stories are The Landlady, a delicious tale featuring the benign ghost of a living old lady haunting her own house, now rented to a young couple and The Villa, a splendid piece depicting how the vengeful original owner of the villa tragically haunts, by means of the house itself, various generations of the subsequent dwellers.

An attractive, enjoyable collection of supernatural tales, including some real gems.