Ghost stories don’t have to be supernatural horrors. The film Ghost is perhaps the most well-known evidence of this, being a romance story. Our sensibilities have also changed over the years and Victorian ghost stories, while chilling at the time, are generally not considered terrifying today.
Wilkie Collins was an English novelist and playwright in the 1800s and his most famous work is possibly his 1859 mystery novel The Woman in White.
Mrs Zant and the Ghost was originally published as The Ghost’s Touch in 1885 and is a sweet, laid back short story of love and revenge. Widower Mr Rayburn and his daughter Lucy come across Mrs Zant in Kensington Gardens, unsure if she is ill, insane, or experiencing a vision of her late husband as she claims. Mrs Zant reveals that the ghost of her husband has warned her of impending danger. Unsure whether the threat is real or not, Mr Rayburn, who is secretly in love with her, must set out to rescue her from what’s to come without causing a scandal if the accusations prove false.
There’s no high drama here, despite the title character being overwrought. Any fan of Victorian fiction will recognise the style of writing from that era and appreciate the flat pace of the drama.
Golden Globe Award winning British actress Gillian Anderson (best known as Scully on the TV series, The X-Files) is mesmerising to listen to. She narrates with a soft-spoken voice which captures the feminine graces of the era, Victorian manners, and the dreamy state of being that makes Mrs Zant’s story so uncertain. Her other characterisations are subtle but distinct.
Running at only 1 hour and 38 minutes, Mrs Zant and the Ghost was released in December 2015 by Audible Studios and is available as a free download through audible.