Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Book of Indian Ghost Stories

The Book of Indian Ghost Stories

by S.Mukherji

Published by Scholastic India, 2010, 171 pages, Soft cover, Black & white, Rs.150, Lent by a friend, Horror Fiction

Reviewed by Kirk Lourenço

The first story in this book is His Dead Wife’s Photograph. Mr. Jones, a photographer who is invited by Mr. Smith to take a likeliness of his wife and sister-in-law mysteriously finds himself in an extraordinary situation in which after he develops the film, finds an unwanted character among Mr. Smith’s wife and his sister-in-law. What are his thoughts and opinions? How and what does he find about this unwanted soul? Read the first story of the book to find out.

All the stories in this book are set in India, in different states like Bengal, Calcutta, Agra, etc. Although there is nothing mentioned about the author in the book, I believe he was born and grown up in East India because a lot of the stories are based in that area. I think this book could be better with a brief introduction about the author.

The cover design is very scary and frightening and will attract anybody looking for a thriller to read and keep him up all night. The book is quite easily readable, except for some of the words that I found difficult to understand, like ‘brickbat’, ‘suttee’, ‘palpitated’ and ‘valour’.

At the beginning of every story the author presents a small introduction briefly describing the horror and what it is about.

At the end of some stories like The Major’s Lease and What Uncle Saw, the author writes some more incidents related to the main story. I did not like the idea of collecting and connecting the incidents like this. Each story should be just one clear story with nothing added unnecessarily.

The Starving Millionaire is in no way connected to ghosts. It is a typical Indian story in which Mr. Anderson receives a curse from a beggar to whom he refused to give any money or food and was taken away by Mr. Anderson’s guards. This act of selfishness I think had brought the curse upon Mr. Anderson. I enjoyed reading this story simply because I feel that it has great lessons to teach all of us.

The Boy Possessed tells me that ghosts always return to their home to take or receive what they desired the most when they were in their human form. The explanation of the above given in the book is what fascinated me the most. According to me, the most interesting character is that of the boy in The Boy Possessed, who is possessed by a soul who has a demand needed to be satisfied urgently.

The Messenger of Death is made up of another five short stories. It tells the reader about the different types of ways in which people receive messages warning and telling them that death is not far away. This story is one of the best.

This book is unique in its own way. The stories in this book depend on whether the reader believes in spirits or not. As for me, I think this book is a non-fiction book. I say this because compared to other scary books that I have read, these stories are believed by a lot of people including me and may have really taken place.

Excerpt from The Major’s Lease :

“…. At last she came in. The Englishwoman in flowing white robes. Mr. Hunter sat panting unable to move. She looked at him for about a minute and beckoned him to follow her. It was then that Mr. Hunter observed that she had only one hand….”

Excerpt from The Starving Millionaire:

“…Before his departure the beggar turned to Mr.Anderson and told him that very soon he would know how painful it was to be hungry….”

Excerpt from The Boy Possessed:

“…My tomb at ____pur (the name has not been mentioned) has been destroyed by a branch of a tree falling upon it. I want that to be properly repaired….”

Rating: 8 out of 10

Stories in the book:

1. His Dead Wife's Photograph

2. The Major's Lease

3. The Open Door

4. What Uncle Saw

5. The Boy Who Was Caught

6. The Starving Millionaire

7. The Bridal Party

8. A Strange Incident

9. What The Professor Saw

10. The Boy Possessed

11. The Examination Paper

12. The Messenger of Death

Kirk Lourenço

Std 9 – Loyola High School, Margao


  1. Hi, Kirk!
    Congratulations on a detailed review. You have made some excellent points. First, I certainly agree with you that each book should carry a note about the author; that is common practice all over the world.
    I also agree with you that tacking on additional incidents at the end of a story is not a good idea. And you certainly expressed a fundamental principle of story writing technique when you wrote "Each story should be just one clear story with nothing added unnecesssrily."
    One of the things I liked most about your approach to the book was the fact that you pointed out "The Starving Millionaire" was not at all a ghost story, and yet you took the trouble to tell us what you found good about it.
    Lastly, you questioned the use of difficult and unfamiliar words such as "suttee." That is a problem that will plague you for life, if you continue to read as avidly as, say, Dad does, or I do. It is difficult for an author to guess what words each of his readers will be familiar with, so all he can do is write as clearly as he can. Even at 85, and having written many books myself, I still find words that I don't know the meaning of, and so I always have a good dictionary by my side. And because that dictionary is an American dictionary, I keep a multi-volume British dictionary a few feet away. The problem is compounded when a word that is used is either an old, obsolete spelling, or a variant. "Suttee" is a good example.
    I bet you did not know the meaning of 'variant' which is why I deliberately tossed it in. Now,look it up in your dictionary, before you ask someone for the meaning!

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