The Ghosts of Kerfol – Deborah Noyes

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“In 1629 a young Frenchwoman is convicted if murdering her husband. The elderly lord is found dead on the stairs, apparently savaged by a pack of dogs. But there were no dogs – no live dogs – at Kerfol that day.

In the first of these five stories, we return to the haunted manor and hear the ghost story “Kerfol”, first told by Edith Wharton, through the sympathetic eyes of a servant girl. Four more tales slip forward in time, peering in on a young artist, a hard-drinking party girl and young American couple and a deaf gardener who now tends the Kerfol estate. All of these souls are haunted by the ghosts of Kerfol – the dead dogs, the sensual yet uneasy relationships and the bitter taste of revenge.”

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Let’s get one thing clear – I’m the biggest chicken ever. At least when it comes to ghost stories. I can’t read them without getting a bit jumpy, I watched Paranormal Activity behind a gap in my fingers, I think the guys on Ghost Hunters are nuts. So I was a bit hesitant about reading a story about vengeful ghosts from the 17th century.

The Ghosts of Kerfol is five short stories, starting with a retelling for Edith Wharton’s original short story Kerfol , with each subsequent story moving forward in time till we get from 1629 to 2006. In the first story (the retelling) we learn about the mysterious death of Yves de Cornault, who was found dead on the stairs of his home, apparently attacked by dogs. Since he maliciously killed every dog his wife ever had after discovering her disloyalty, there hadn’t been a dog on the grounds since. So how did he die?

The stories that follow are about the house that still stands and the ghosts that now haunt the grounds.

Despite my previous issues with ghost stories I thought the story sounded interesting and was ready to give it a go. Unfortunately it didn’t live up to my hopes.

My issue was that after the first story, each of the others felt too brief and disconnected from one another. At only 171 pages each story only got about 30 pages and in that time there’s so much focus on the main character that the ghosts become a small and almost pointless feature. Once we started to become interested in the human characters, we moved right along to the next story.

And the ghosts themselves, in the end what did they do? Not that much, besides one incident all they did was a lot of creepy staring. It would have been better if each story linked to one another or built up to some big ending but the tension just kind of fizzled out to nothing.

If you do happen to read it I don’t recommend doing what I did – reading it right before bed. Though none of it was hardly scary, the creepy staring is still not the best thing to have in mind while trying to sleep.

If you were interesting in the story, you’re probably better off just reading Edith Wharton’s original short story. There was nothing wrong with this book generally but in the end all I could think was ‘meh’.

Pages: 171
Publication Date: August 2008
Publisher: Candlewick Press/Walker Books
Challenge: Historical Fiction
Rating: [rating:2.5]

Teaser Quote: “When at last she called for me to dress down her bed, we took the stairs slowly, carefully, like elderly women afraid of slipping or breaking a bone. We did not hurry, but we arrived all the same.
We found it.
The little dog lay dead on her pillow.”