The Old Knowledge by Rosalie Parker

The Old Knowledge and Other Strange Tales

by Rosalie Parker

Published by The Swan River press, 2010

Rosalie Parker’s first collection gathers together eight tales which introduce us to her unique brand of gentle horror. With a clear descent from the school of classic ghost stories these tales are another branch of the evolutionary tree for the ghostly weird tale, exploring modern relationships and feelings in a timeless style.

All the old stalwarts are here. Within these pages you will find witches, werewolves, ghosts and even a vampire but they are all discretely hidden in the shadows of the tale. Never brought out for public display until just the right moment, instead they lurk threateningly in the background.

We start with The Rain in which we meet a woman seeking refuge from a troubled relationship in an idyllic village. It’s not long before the rain washes the shine off the new location, revealing a much darker place. This is fairly typical of the storytelling within the collection. This is a story very much about Geraldine, the main character and her life, which just happens to be about to get worse. The true nature of the darkness in her life and around the village is never fully revealed. The ending of this tale felt a bit abrupt, I wanted more.

Spirit Solutions meets a dysfunctional family gathered together to hear their father’s will until interrupted by a poltergeist. The supernatural threat was stronger in this tale although again the ending felt slightly rushed.

In The Garden has already featured on the pages in my review of the Fifth Black Book of Horror (here) where I described it as full of emotion and atmosphere.

Chanctonbury Ring is one of my favourites. It combines a that old trope of modern science messing with things it doesn’t understand but gets fresh life breathed into it by the presence of a strong female protagonist and a nice twist at the end. The Old Knowledge takes a similar theme of local tradition threatened and is also very enjoyable.

The Supply Teacher and The Cook’s Story take some more traditional themes (vampires and werewolves respectively) but subtly infuse the stories with them avoiding the obvious cliches.

Finally The Picture delivers a powerful anti-greed message as a bargain hunter finds that one particular catch comes at a price.

This is a short book and whilst most of the themes on display have been well examined elsewhere, they are kept fresh by the strong characterisation and subtle twists. If the style does have a flaw it is only that it is perhaps a bit too gentle. There is darkness here but much of it is hinted at and remains largely unseen. For a collection which focuses on emotion as strongly as this one it would have been nice to explore that dark side of human nature in more detail.

Rating 3.5 out of 5

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Filed under dark, fiction, Review, short, story

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