The People in the Castle: Selected Strange Stories

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( 179 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9781618731128: The People in the Castle: Selected Strange Stories

Praise for Joan Aiken's stories:

"Wildly inventive, darkly lyrical, and always surprising . . . should be cherished."—Publishers Weekly

"Darkly whimsical stories. . . . Aiken writes with surpassing spirit and alertness, her elegant restraint and dry wit never fail to leave their mark."—Kirkus Reviews

"Will appeal to readers of short stories and literary fiction. Highly recommended."—Library Journal

"Aiken's pastoral meadows and circus chaos, gothic grotesques and quirky romances . . . have a dream-like quality executed with a brevity and wit that is a testament to her skill as a story-teller."—California Literary Review

"Fantasy is combined with magic, myth and adventure to form weird, wonderful and immersive tales."—For Book's Sake

Here is the whisper in the night, the dog whose loyalty outlasted death, the creak upstairs, that half-remembered ghost story that won't let you sleep, the sound that raises gooseflesh, the wish you'd checked the lock on the door before dark fell. Here are tales of suspense and the supernatural that will chill, amuse, and exhilarate. Features a new introduction by the late author's daughter, Lizza Aiken.

Best known for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken (1924–2004) wrote over a hundred books and won the Guardian and Edgar Allan Poe awards. After her first husband's death, she supported her family by copyediting at Argosy magazine and an advertising agency before turning to fiction. She went on to write for Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, Argosy, Women's Own, and many others. Visit her online at joanaiken.com.

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About the Author:

Best known for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken (1924-2004) wrote over a hundred books and won the Guardian and Edgar Allan Poe awards. After her first husband’s death, she supported her family by copyediting at Argosy magazine and an advertising agency before turning to fiction. She went on to write for Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, Argosy, Women’s Own, and many others. Visit her online at: www.joanaiken.com.

Review:


"In stories like “The Dark Streets of Kimball’s Green”―about a little orphan girl whose druid fantasies become reality―and “Hope”―about a strict spinstress harp teacher getting lost in a city whose dark corners contain mysterious music―Aiken brings the arts to the forefront of every human motivation. Whether a character is seeking the solace of a poem or avoiding the emotional weight of a song, each one learns in some way the power that words and art have over (and even beyond) life. This power sometimes feels familiar to us, such as when a character in “The Cold Flame” returns as a ghost to make sure his poems get published, and sometimes takes a more uncanny turn, more magic and danger than your everyday reverence for a novel or a painting. But in every case, this supernatural treatment of the arts gives the stories a strangely pre-modern tone, a mode of writing that became increasingly unpopular in literature in the post-war days Aiken wrote in. And yet it is this sincere belief in the signs and symbols humans create for ourselves that make Aiken’s stories feel timeless and moving, that allow them to come to life in our current historical moment."
― Emily Nordling, Tor.com

“If you’re looking for speculative short fiction of a decided literary bent, it’s hard to imagine a more satisfying source than this assembly of fantastical work by the peerless, prolific Joan Aiken (who died in 2004), assembled from across her storied career. The magical and the everyday collide in these short, evocative tales, which, in marvelously efficient, elegant prose, find unsettling strangeness lurking just around the corner from normal (the ghost of a puppy is trapped in an abandoned storage box, fairy queen squat in overgrown forests). A slim, seriously moving collection.”
― Joel Cunningham, B&N SF&F

“A welcome anthology of fantasy stories by a 20th-century master. The author of the beloved classic gothic for children The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Aiken (1924-2004) also wrote hundreds of works of popular fiction that spanned the genres, from fantasy to horror to historical fiction, including several Jane Austen sequels. Naturally the tone of her books and short stories varies with their content, but its main notes include sophisticated, spritely satire and the darker moods of literary fairy tales. Fans of Wolves will recognize the honorable orphans and cruel guardians who populate these tales. Typically the wicked meet with fitting fates and the innocent triumph, though for Aiken, a good death counts as a happy ending. She plays with the contrast between the eldritch and modern culture and technology: ghosts and dead kings out of legend who contact the living by telephone, a doctor who writes prescriptions for fairies, a fairy princess who’s fond of Westerns. Her metaphors and similes surprise and delight: “the August night was as gentle and full as a bucket of new milk”; “He was tall and pale, with a bony righteous face and eyes like faded olives”; across a field, “lambs [followed] their mothers like iron filings drawn to a magnet in regular converging lines.” Sprightly but brooding, with well-defined plots, twists, and punch lines, these stories deserve a place on the shelf with the fantasies of Saki (H.H. Munro), Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Susanna Clarke.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“There’s so much to love about this slender collection... The juxtaposition of mundane and magical...feels effortless and fresh. The language is simply splendid, so evocative, as though the stories were actually very dense poems. And it brilliantly showcases Aiken’s affectionate, humorous, deft portrayals of female characters... Aiken’s prose is extraordinary, impossible to do justice to in this small space. Her skill with the language of folk tales―specifically the oral storytelling native to the British Isles―is unparalleled... These stories both feel very 20th century and somehow timeless.”
Publishers Weekly, Boxed, signed review by Rose Fox, Senior Reviews Editor


"In stories like The Dark Streets of Kimball’s Green” about a little orphan girl whose druid fantasies become reality and Hope” about a strict spinstress harp teacher getting lost in a city whose dark corners contain mysterious music Aiken brings the arts to the forefront of every human motivation. Whether a character is seeking the solace of a poem or avoiding the emotional weight of a song, each one learns in some way the power that words and art have over (and even beyond) life. This power sometimes feels familiar to us, such as when a character in The Cold Flame” returns as a ghost to make sure his poems get published, and sometimes takes a more uncanny turn, more magic and danger than your everyday reverence for a novel or a painting. But in every case, this supernatural treatment of the arts gives the stories a strangely pre-modern tone, a mode of writing that became increasingly unpopular in literature in the post-war days Aiken wrote in. And yet it is this sincere belief in the signs and symbols humans create for ourselves that make Aiken’s stories feel timeless and moving, that allow them to come to life in our current historical moment."
Emily Nordling, Tor.com

If you’re looking for speculative short fiction of a decided literary bent, it’s hard to imagine a more satisfying source than this assembly of fantastical work by the peerless, prolific Joan Aiken (who died in 2004), assembled from across her storied career. The magical and the everyday collide in these short, evocative tales, which, in marvelously efficient, elegant prose, find unsettling strangeness lurking just around the corner from normal (the ghost of a puppy is trapped in an abandoned storage box, fairy queen squat in overgrown forests). A slim, seriously moving collection.”
Joel Cunningham, B&N SF&F

A welcome anthology of fantasy stories by a 20th-century master. The author of the beloved classic gothic for children The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Aiken (1924-2004) also wrote hundreds of works of popular fiction that spanned the genres, from fantasy to horror to historical fiction, including several Jane Austen sequels. Naturally the tone of her books and short stories varies with their content, but its main notes include sophisticated, spritely satire and the darker moods of literary fairy tales. Fans of Wolves will recognize the honorable orphans and cruel guardians who populate these tales. Typically the wicked meet with fitting fates and the innocent triumph, though for Aiken, a good death counts as a happy ending. She plays with the contrast between the eldritch and modern culture and technology: ghosts and dead kings out of legend who contact the living by telephone, a doctor who writes prescriptions for fairies, a fairy princess who’s fond of Westerns. Her metaphors and similes surprise and delight: the August night was as gentle and full as a bucket of new milk”; He was tall and pale, with a bony righteous face and eyes like faded olives”; across a field, lambs [followed] their mothers like iron filings drawn to a magnet in regular converging lines.” Sprightly but brooding, with well-defined plots, twists, and punch lines, these stories deserve a place on the shelf with the fantasies of Saki (H.H. Munro), Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Susanna Clarke.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

There’s so much to love about this slender collection The juxtaposition of mundane and magical feels effortless and fresh. The language is simply splendid, so evocative, as though the stories were actually very dense poems. And it brilliantly showcases Aiken’s affectionate, humorous, deft portrayals of female characters Aiken’s prose is extraordinary, impossible to do justice to in this small space. Her skill with the language of folk tales specifically the oral storytelling native to the British Isles is unparalleled These stories both feel very 20th century and somehow timeless.”
Publishers Weekly, Boxed, signed review by Rose Fox, Senior Reviews Editor

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