The House on Parchment Street: A ghost story from a developing fantasy writer

The House on Parchment Street by Patricia McKillip science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThe House on Parchment Street by Patricia McKillip

The House on Parchment Street by Patricia McKillip science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsI probably would never have known about The House on Parchment Street (1973) were I not such a huge fan of Patricia McKillip‘s fantasy stories, and while browsing her name on a library search engine, this title popped up. It was obviously one of her earliest published works, so I was willing to give it a go.

The House on Parchment Street is profoundly different from her later stories, which are not only told with dense poetic-prose, but focus more on fantasy worlds and creatures. This is a fairly straightforward ghost story, with equally straightforward prose, about a girl called Carol Christopher who travels from America to stay with her cousin Bruce, Aunt Catherine, and Uncle Harold in a small English village.

Carol and Bruce don’t exactly get off on the right foot, but soon both are forced to bond over their shared experiences with a ghost in the cellar. No one but they have seen the ghostly young woman in the period-garb who seems unaware of the man with a sword who lurks behind her – but who is the “Edward” that she speaks of, and why does she disappear into the wall behind her?

The cousins are soon gathering up clues from the ancient stone house that the family lives in, with the hope that they can not only set the ghosts to rest, but make Uncle Harold believe their story.

There are touches of McKillip’s signature style here and there: the way the characters’ inner turmoil reflects the fantastic events around them; a few turns of phrase that would later become her complex prose, but for the most part this is a fairly mediocre (almost bland) ghost story.

The House on Parchment Street has been out of print for decades, but if you’re a long-term fan of McKillip you might want to give it a go. Just be warned that it bears very little resemblance in content or style to her later, much more popular work.

The House on Parchment Street — (1973) Ages 9-12. Publisher: While staying with her cousin in England, a young girl helps him find a way of helping the troubled ghosts inhabiting the cellar of the house.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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2 comments

  1. Kelly Lasiter /

    Wow, both story and cover are very different from her later stuff!

  2. I’d never heard of this either! I think I would rather re-read some of her old poetic fantasy like THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD first though.

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