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Oliver Onions

Book Overview: 

Onions wrote several collections of ghost stories, of which the best known is Widdershins. It includes the novella The Beckoning Fair One, widely regarded as one of the best in the genre of horror fiction, especially psychological horror. On the surface, this is a conventional haunted house story: an unsuccessful writer moves into rooms in an otherwise empty house, in the hope that isolation will help his failing creativity. His sensitivity and imagination are enhanced by his seclusion, but his art, his only friend and his sanity are all destroyed in the process. The story can be read as narrating the gradual possession of the protagonist by a mysterious and possessive feminine spirit, or as a realistic description of a psychotic outbreak culminating in catatonia and murder, told from the sufferer's point of view. The precise description of the slow disintegration of the protagonist's mind is terrifying in either case. Another theme, shared with others of Onions' stories, is a connection between creativity and insanity; in this view, the artist is in danger of withdrawing from the world altogether and losing himself in his creation.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Her devotion and fidelity and love plagued him; she was only humiliating both herself and him. It would have been bad enough had he ever, by word or deed, given her cause for thus fastening herself on him … but there; that was the worst of that kind of life for a woman. Women such as she, business women, in and out of offices all the time, always, whether they realised it or not, made comradeship a cover for something else. They accepted the unconventional status, came and went freely, as men did, were honestly taken by men at their own valuation—and then it turned out to be the other thing after all, and they went and fell in love. No wonder there was gossip in shops and squares and public houses! In a sense the gossipers were in the right of it. Independent, yet not efficient; with some of womanhood's graces forgone, and yet with all the woman's hunger and need; half sophisticated, yet not wise; Oleron was tired of it all….

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Community Reviews

The Edwardian era was the last great period of the English ghost story, and Oliver Onion's Widdershins is one of the classic collections of the age. Although each of the nine stories here is worth reading, the collection is famous because of "The Beckoning Fair One," a novella of ghostly obsession a

Really enjoyed this collection. Oliver Onions is totally new to me and I’m astounded that I haven’t encountered him before. These stories a sparingly written (for the time) and Onions’ economy is precise. That is, he gives me just enough to grasp a psychology or paint a scene, but never belabors eit

This is a book of eight short stories - well, one is a novella - first published in 1911, by Yorkshireman Onions. He wrote well, each of the stories holds the attention and his characterization is good. All have at least a hint of the strange or unnatural. They stand up even a century after writing.

I'd give this one 3.5 if I could.

Actually, while the other stories are fine enough, "The Beckoning Fair One" alone gets you five stars: no spoilers, but it helps to know this story is written mostly from the POV of the man living in the house & he's a bit clueless, so read slowly and carefully to get the full experience.

I originally picked up this hard-to-find book after reading of it in Newman & Jones' excellent overview volume, "Horror: The 100 Best Books." "Widdershins" is a collection of Oliver Onions' short stories, and was first published in 1911. Onions was supposedly a meticulous writer, writing and rewriti

Generally considered a landmark publication of ghost stories, it should be noted that only three tales in this collection seem to aspire to make the reader shudder. These include haunted house novella The Beckoning Fair One – surely one of the great masterpieces of the genre – and the shorter storie

Classic supernatural horror rooted firmly in the psychological. Stories with an allowance for interpretation and the fantastic; Onions writing tends to the convoluted, but not overly complex, and in doing so pushes traditional ghostly occurrences into realms of tortured minds, deception and insanity

"The Beckoning Fair One", Onions' most well-known short story, is the first in this short collection. It is an excellent ghost story with an unexpected twist at the end. The fear isn't caused only by the description of the ghostly activity, but also by the madness into which the main character desce

Ah, Edwardian era horror is strange. Particularly Edwardian era short horror stories. I did enjoy "The Beckoning Fair One", however.

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