Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Travelling Bag and Other Ghostly Stories by Susan Hill

I think it's safe to say that my love of Susan Hill's ghost stories is well known here on my blog - I bang on about The Woman in Black, in various formats, constantly, and if you were to ask me for a ghost story rec, it would likely be something by Susan Hill. So, naturally, when her newest collection of ghost stories was released, I snapped a copy up.

The Travelling Bag and Other Ghostly Stories is a collection of four short ghost stories, including the title story, The Travelling Bag, as well as Boy Twenty-One, Alice Baker and lastly The Front Room. All of the stories have that classic Susan Hill stamp with simple prose but suspenseful writing, although I wasn't entirely blown away by the collection as a whole. Surprisingly, it wasn't the title story that I was most impressed with in this book, but the last story titled The Front Room; for me it felt very much like saving the best till last.

In the title story, on a murky evening in a club in St James', a paranormal detective recounts his most memorable case, one whose horrifying denouement took place in that very building.

The overall premise of The Travelling Bag is something I enjoyed, especially the character of the paranormal detective which I thought was a little surprising from the author personally, however I wasn't entirely keen on the execution of the story and that's why the title story was not a favourite of mine.

A lonely boy makes a friend in 'Boy Twenty-One', but years later is forced to question the very nature of that friendship.

Honestly, I was a little confused by the story Boy Twenty-One. I don't know if perhaps I rushed my reading of it and a reread would open my eyes a little more, but it kind of just flew over my head. I don't know. I know that's a vague review, but I don't want to spoil the story.

'Alice Barker' tells the story of a mysterious new office worker who is accompanied by a lingering smell of decay.

By the time I reached the third story in this collection, I was feeling a little disappointed if I'm honest, however Alice Barker pulled me back into the collection. I really enjoyed the story, although a little long, and I think the conclusion was really well written.

And in 'The Front Room', a devoutly Christian mother tried to protect her children from the evil influence of their grandmother, both when she is alive and afterwards.

The last of the stories, and my favourite of the bunch. The Front Room is what I look for in a Susan Hill story - a dark but deceptive force, a gripping story, and a conclusion you think you see coming but are proven wrong at the last turn.

Although I didn't thoroughly enjoy all four stories within the collection, I'm glad to have this book on my shelves, and definitely see myself returning to them in the future. If you're looking to delve into Susan Hill's ghost stories, then I'd highly recommend doing so, however I wouldn't start with this collection.



  1. If this wasn't your favorite as a Susan Hill fan, I'll likely skip it. I'm much more keen to check out that Dahl collection. And I think there are other Hill books I'd rather check out first if I get to her anyway!

    1. I definitely wouldn't recommend this as your first experience of Susan Hill's writing, in particular ghost stories.

      I'm so glad you found the Dahl collection at your library - I hope you enjoy some of the stories in there. Happy reading!

  2. So, I have a hard time with ghost stories. I love all things horror, but I've never had a personal ghost-like experience and find it hard to believe. I know, it's horrible!! I need to get over it.

    1. Ahh, I totally understand that, Brandie! I love ghost stories... But I have had a couple of 'spooky' experiences, and would say I am a believer of sorts in ghosts - I think having that thought process definitely lends to the reading experience of a ghost story.


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