And now for some Christmas Quirky

Some books just lend themselves to being read in the festive season. I might not give this book a second glance all year round, but at some point over Christmas, I’ll make a point of taking it down from the shelf (the yellow section) to peruse the fabulously strange pen and ink drawn illustrations from the Master of unsettling kookiness, Edward Gorey.

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‘The Doubtful Guest’ is a visual feast of gloomy gothic scenes set in a crumbling mansion. A strange visitor equipped with stripey scarf and converse trainers arrives unannounced, invading the privacy of the inhabitants, leaving a trail of chaos in its wake.

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The accompanying rhyming couplets are a joyous mix of nonsense and the surreal, and make for a hilarious and deeply strange little book. Gorey offers no explanation or resolution to this curious tale, leaving you enchanted but bewildered. The family’s awkwardness, and their refusal to challenge their uninvited guest head on, appear to capture and distill that most quintessentially English of qualities -British reserve. In fact, Gorey was not English as is often thought, but was born and lived in America, only leaving the States on one occasion for a visit to the Shetland Islands.

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                                  It betrayed a great liking for peering up flues,                                   And for peeling the soles of its white canvas shoes.

‘The Doubtful Guest’ never fails to make me smile. In fact, I think it’s high time I added to my Edward Gorey collection. That way, next year I can have myself a very quirky Christmas, and in my opinion, those are the finest sort.

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                               Every Sunday it brooded and lay on the floor,                                  Inconveniently close to the drawing-room door.

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