“‘Captivating characters in a dark, gothic world. Superbly written with a goldtipped pen”
Writing Style: 9
Star Rating: 5
As it happens, I do enjoy a good gothic novel, so I settled down with this offering from Sana Pirzada who I happen to know is the author of another book, The Rose Within. I enjoyed The Rose Within very much, and I was delighted it was a finalist in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards in 2016.
Well, I’m delighted to report that this is even better. Much better, in fact. Firstly, the writing style is excellent. The author understands pacing and how to develop characters through speech. Secondly, the setting. Wow! It’s so dark, so haunting.
In many ways, the Victorian setting is a character in this book. The author is adept at describing the dark, gothic atmosphere from Thorn Manor to Vernon Hall.
But it is the characters who stand out the most. The author works terribly hard to offer the reader complex characters; often haunted by past events. All of the characters, even the secondary, jump off the page. So much so, I was
sympathizing with many and rooting for the rest. The best character? Difficult. Personally, I liked Willoughby. He was so very kind, so very noble. Yes, he was flawed too. But the balance was perfect; the result, a ‘real’ character for the reader to fall in love with.
There is a strong element of ‘morality’ in this set of four. A strong element of ‘love’. The author is intent on having a moral for the reader to grasp and contemplate. Is Pirzada working too hard here? Possibly. But, still, the moral –
different for every story – is important. And, although it niggled me slightly to have them pushed so strongly in the narrative, they will, possibly, inspire the reader to think. And that’s never a bad thing.
Book review by Jordana Landsman
“It was this place, this haunted castle, which played tricks on my mind.”
Nice people meet scary myths and monsters in this spooky homage to vintage gothic horror. A kind but destitute young man rides through the 19th century London countryside only to meet a series of storybook demons who seem to know more about him than he does. A young girl finds refuge with a kindred supernatural figure and gives her a hefty gift. A house connects generations of mortals and others, holding secrets and souls until it can no longer bear the burden.
Recurring images and themes connect these discomfiting stories. Mists swirl and apparitions come and go, all while kindly innocents seek to navigate righteous paths. Orphans and lone figures find loving, surrogate caregivers and partners, even as supernatural hauntings surround and threaten them. Death operates on a non-binary continuum, as generations pass and pass on their legacies of wealth and haunting. The homes, too, breathe with life as they shelter and foment, providing comfort and danger, often simultaneously.
With sympathetic characters and apt atmospheric descriptions, this collection is a fun-filled and appropriately sinister monster mash of evil monks, werewolves, angry ghosts, embalmed corpses, and haunted houses. The action and introspection are well-balanced, and, despite an outrageous cast that could easily upstage the more earnest protagonists, the emphasis stays squarely where it belongs—with the central characters who are navigating life and livelihood while being distracted and thwarted by forces beyond their understanding and control. A sensitive reader is well-advised to enter these stories in a well-lit room on a clear, stormless night when the full moon is nowhere to be found.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review
The book launch for ‘Vernon Hall & Other Stories’ took place on Saturday 20th April, 2019 at the Marriott Hotel, Karachi. Guest speakers included: the highly intellectual Dr Nadya Chisty Mujahid and Mr Sirajuddin Aziz. The event received coverage in several newspapers including The News – International (London Edition)
Vernon Hall and Other Stories: Gothic Short Stories Collide, Amid Enigma of Victorian England
Sana Pirzada’s ‘Vernon Hall and Other Stories’ provides a fascinating glimpse into Victorian England through four short stories, a series of morality lessons and a unique cast of characters that encapsulate the era’s mystery. From Lord Ravenson to Vernon Hall – Pirzada’s latest volume is a beautiful work of fiction.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
United Kingdom – In 2016, Sana Pirzada stormed the literary scene with her debut novel, ‘The Rose Within’, which took her fascination with gothic fiction to a very personal new level. Following much success, she now returns with ‘Vernon Hall and Other Stories’.
It’s a collection of four different pieces of fiction, each inspired by Victorian England’s Gothicism and narrated by those with strong connections to love, death and spirituality.
Vernon Hall & Other Stories is a collection of four short stories in the style of the Gothic genre. Set against the backdrop of Victorian England, each story narrates several morality lessons through the lens of unique characters.
Lord Ravenson narrates the story of a writer, Meriweather Willoughby and the challenges that he confronts in winning his love. Though he is poor himself, he proves to be a very charitable and noble man who attains his heart’s desires by being kind to others. Supernatural elements of werewolves/ vampires and clairvoyants are all present. The moral of this story is: Sometimes God pushes you on a certain path you never thought you would take. And the spiritual journey that lies ahead is often a life-changing one.
Madame de Quincey narrates the story of a young girl, Penny Brown and how she wishes to escape her dysfunctional family. Madame de Quincey, a kind witch tries to help Penny but the story takes an unexpected turn. The moral of the story is: Love is all about self-sacrifice and true love has no boundaries – no ‘ifs’, no ‘buts’ and no conditions.
The Withered Mistletoe (a long poem) narrates the story of a young boy, Horace whose mother is dying. He accidentally stumbles upon a haunted house called Thorn Manor and meets the ghost of Baroness Thorn who initially scares him off but once Horace listens to her tale of woe begins to empathise with her and tries to reunite her spirit with her estranged son. The moral of the story is: Even death cannot undo a parent’s love for their child and a child’s love for their parent.
Vernon Hall: is a story within a story. It begins in London during the Second World War and Christine the narrator highlights how the war has damaged the country and her own life. She then begins reading her deceased mother’s journal and the reader is transported back in time to the Victorian era when Christine’s mother, Eleanor was a young woman. Eleanor’s Journal then narrates how she was taken under the wing of the noble Amelia Vernon, an aristocrat and how she ended up living at Vernon Hall, Amelia’s family estate in Kent by the sea. But Vernon Hall has many secrets and a history that is blood-curdling. Eleanor eventually falls head over heels in love with the alluring Ezekiel Lloyd – but he is not quite what he appears to be. It is a beautiful love story with horror elements – a dark Gothic romance. The moral of the story is: love that is true forever burns.
“Each story stands alone, but also collectively comes together to paint a portrait of England back in the Victorian era, as Gothicism defined the architecture and culture of the period,” explains the author. “It’s definitely a collection that will leave readers with some soul-searching to be done.”
Continuing, “I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Jelena Zibert, a world-class illustrator who brings the four narratives to vivid life through her stunning art.”
‘Vernon Hall and Other Stories’ is available now.
For more information, visit the author’s blog: http://sanaspirzada.com.
About the Author:
Sana Pirzada is a barrister by profession as well as a writer and aspiring musician. Her debut novel, The Rose Within — A Gothic Romance’, was first published in 2016 and was a Finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards and won a Silver award in the ‘Mystery-Fiction’ category of the Global E-Book Awards 2017.
‘Vernon Hall & Other Stories’ is her second book, a collection of short stories in the style of Gothic fiction, a genre Sana is fascinated by.
My article written with Mahnoor Ahmed on the Harvey Weinstein case and the culture of sexism:
First look at the new cover of ‘The Rose Within’ being published by Austin Macauley (UK publishers) on 30th May, 2018 in Sha Allah. Congratulations to ‘The Rose Within’ for making it this far! The ‘e’ on the cover page is the Silver medal won in the Global E-Book Awards one of the best achievements of the novel so far. This time both paperback and hardcover are being published and will be available from: www.austinmacauley.com and www.Amazon.co.uk