Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror (Chris Priestley)

I was intrigued by Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror (part of the Tales of Terror series) by Chris Priestley when I saw it at a library book sale and decided to buy it. The first thing that caught my eye was the cover of the book. I love the illustrations! Such creepiness but at the same time, there is some innocence to it. Once I read the description on the back, I knew that this was a story that I wanted to read. A young boy named Edgar visits his Uncle Montague to listen to his stories. His Uncle tells him several scary stories and Edgar realizes that objects from these stories are in his Uncle's house. Weird things also happen while Edgar is at his Uncle's house and eventually he learns that his Uncle has a part in a scary story that brings all of the scary stories together.

This is a children's novel and you can tell that it is geared towards children but it is still very good. I think that some of the stories might even be a bit too scary for some children, but children are exposed to a lot nowadays so who knows if they would actually be scared. I found that the first two stories had very predictable endings and weren't very scary or disturbing but the third story and the rest after that were actually kind of scary. They made you ask yourself what you would do in that situation or at least made you imagine yourself in that situation and I found myself feeling uncomfortable. Most of the stories expressed the same message: If you are bad, bad things will happen to you. It's something that we as know as karma.

I loved how Edgar and his Uncle Montague are sitting in front of a fireplace and drinking tea during the storytelling. It made me think of the act of telling ghost stories around a campfire. It was interesting to also see a sort of "break" after each story where Edgar and Uncle Montague chat a bit about the story or strange things happen in and around the house. Instead of simply having your own reactions to the stories, you are able to see how a fictional character would react to them. You also get glimpses into all of the stories eventually coming together in the end.

For a lot of the stories, it felt like the ending was too abrupt. It felt like the story wasn't completely over even though it was for the purpose of telling that major scary part of the character's life. In the case of some stories, the character didn't die like they did in the other stories so it actually wasn't over for them. The characters would have continued on in the state that the scary situation put them in. I just found that the stories could have each continued a little bit past their endings if the character was technically still alive. I even found the final ending to be a bit disappointing. Uncle Montague walks away with the children, who are the children that died in the stories and who were the ones that actually told him all of the stories that he told to Edgar. He must look after these children forever as his punishment for being a bad person in the past. Edgar walks back home, realizing that the boring life that he is going back to is actually the kind of life that he yearns for right now after finding out about Uncle Montague's secret. It seems as though Edgar is never going to visit Uncle Montague again. I guess I would be scared if I was in Edgar's shoes but I myself would be intrigued and want to spend more time with Uncle Montague because his life is quite interesting and he seems to have changed from the bad person that he used to be. Why would I want to go back to a boring life if I could have some part in a more interesting one? I think Edgar should have been more open-minded.

Illustration by David Roberts on page 19 of Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley

I can definitely imagine this book being animated into some kind of film using the same style as the illustrations. I could imagine Tim Burton directing it and Vincent Price giving his voice to Uncle Montague, even though Mr. Price unfortunately passed away in 1993. His voice would have been perfect! The illustrations are so well done that you can imagine them moving as you look at them. I think it's due to all of the amazing etching work. The above photo is my favourite illustration in the book, mostly because I love tea and fireplaces but also because it's a good one for imagining it animated. I can see the movement of Edgar bringing the tea cup to his lips and the movement of the flames with the sound of the fire crackling. I can also imagine the branches on the walls moving while Edgar listens to his Uncle, too absorbed in his stories to notice. There is no mention in the book of the branches on the walls moving (there's not even any mention of branches being on the walls) but I feel that it would add even more spookiness if the book was ever animated.


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