The book resting by my bedside at the moment is ‘The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales’ by Kate Mosse.
You may be familiar with Kate Mosse as the author of the historical novels ‘Labyrinth’, ‘Sepulchre’ and ‘Citadel.’ (And she is not to be confused with the model!)
Her collection of short stories, ‘The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales’ is true to her empowered female narrative voice, and contains a selection of haunting tales, each as thought-provoking as the one before.
The stories are based on traditional folk tales and country legends from England and France. Knowing this makes them even more engaging as you try to decipher what could be real and what is fiction.
The tales are intriguing because they don’t fully unravel until their climax, which is when the story clicks into place and you can appreciate the first few pages which you didn’t completely understand at first.
They are haunting and kept me on my toes until the final page. Some are set in the past, and others are modern, but Mosse immerses you entirely in the story so that even if you have no knowledge of the era it is set in, you feel completely absorbed. The author’s note concluding each piece helps to explain it and brings you back to the present.
My favourite story is the opening tale, ‘The Mistletoe Bride’. It’s about a wedding party who play a game of hide-and-seek, but the game goes very wrong. It’s unexpected, ethereal and thought inspiring. The demure tone of the speaker is clever, and when I knew the secret at the end I needed to go back and re-read it.
The main protagonist in each tale is a woman – and each woman is very different, belonging to a different time period, and reflecting the views of this time.
It’s a great book to dip in and out of when I have a spare evening. I like the fact that the stories really are short stories, and they only take half an hour or so to get through. Some of them require slow reading as you try to interpret what is happening or where the plot is leading, but with these tales, fewer words really is more.
I wouldn’t recommend this as a holiday read, because it can be read quite quickly – I think the stories require time to be appreciated and digested properly. It’s perfect for a cold night in when you can snuggle down and absorb yourself in it though!