Virgin of the 7 Daggers // Vernon Lee

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Vernon Lee = Violet Paget, claimed by some to be the best writer of supernatural fiction in the 19th Century and infinitely better than Henry James.

Having read this collection of stories and having never touched a page of James, I can say this is undeniably true.

First off, when I started reading the first story I thought it was a very long opening chapter of a novel, not a short story, so the structure really blew me away. I had no idea where the story was going. It was only when the plot seemed to be reaching a dead end that I flicked forward and realised the second chapter was a whole different story.

It was a bit deflating, not enough to forget that the main character was in love with a mystical snake lady and his granddad was strangely immortal, but it still would’ve been better if the story had gone on to another location, perhaps an alternate dimension or the Oort Cloud.

In future, should I read all short stories thinking they’re novels?

It might help.

Should writers write novels as if they’re short stories?

Anything to add something new.

There’s something about 19th Century fiction, or authors, the way they write their characters. Psychologically, they’re weird and deep, they have active minds and they think in a way that seems almost like a foreign language now. Even Sherlock Holmes has this style, though most people are used to his shtick. Continue reading

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