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BSFA Review: The Open Door and Other Stories of the Seen & Unseen by Margaret Oliphant

28/06/2022 19:12 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

The Open Door and Other Stories cover

The Open Door and Other Stories of the Seen & Unseen by Margaret Oliphant

(British Library, 2021)

Reviewed by Andy Sawyer

One of the most interesting writers of the late 19th century was “Mrs Oliphant” (1828-1897), a novelist, short-story writer and critic of immense if variable productivity who, after her husband’s death in 1879 supported an extended family through her literary efforts. While a number of her novels were best-sellers, she is probably best-known today for her supernatural fiction.

In The Open Door Mike Ashley presents six stories with an introduction which asks, though doesn’t really answer, why so many British women of that time wrote ghost stories. For Oliphant, the reasons Ashley gives seem sound, linking fashionable spiritualism and a personal set of family traumas and losses. Most of the stories here offer glimpses into what Oliphant was to call the “Unseen”, the surrounding Afterlife which, according to some Spiritualist beliefs, can communicate with us. There’s a sense of loss, melancholy, and moral questioning which speaks well to the modern reader.

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Review from BSFA Review 16 - Download your copy here.

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