Tuesday, 16 August 2016

[Book Review] John Pinkney, Haunted: The Book of Australia's Ghosts

Review: John Pinkney, Haunted: The Book of Australia's Ghosts (Five Mile Press, Melbourne, 2005).

Pinkney's book is a collection of ghost stories from around Australia (with an honourable mention to an Australian ghost in Britain).  Some of the stories are drawn from written records (for example, the old tale of the ghost of Frederick Fisher).  Many more are modern accounts provided to Mr Pinkney by members of the public.  There are some old friends here, like the ghost of the baritone Federici, haunting Melbourne's Princess Theatre, and there are many that are more obscure (the phantoms of the Mornington Peninula freeway were new to me, despite growing up in that area).

The book is written in a good conversational style.  You could imagine much of it being taken from a Sunday newspaper.  Most of the stories have a well-worn quality, as if they'd been told and retold many times over cups of tea.

If one were picky, the book could be criticised.  Written and verbal accounts are treated completely uncritically, and there are multiple references to half-identified characters ("said to be the ghost of a nurse"; "thought to have been a soldier").  Criticising it this way, though, rather misses the point.  This isn't meant to be a textual or historical analysis of the evidence for ghosts.  Instead, it's a work of modern folklore - the sort that spins a good yarn even if it means stretching a few details here and there (I think it was Hayden White who said that there's nothing so human as the desire to tell stories).  The subject matter itself is an example of a desire to talk about what links those who are dead with those who are still living, and to pass these tales on to people yet unborn.

I give this one four stars out of five.  Read and enjoy!

1 comment: