A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Looking for some free books to fill your eReader? You may already know that there are plenty of classics available as free downloadable eBooks, but if you explore enough you’ll find some free titles you might not expect: forgotten bestsellers, early genre classics, pulp fiction and more. Here’s a free title that has caught my attention lately, with links to the download below.
John Maltravers was just a likeable, promising young student at Oxford with a passion for music when the unexpected discovery of a genuine Stradivarius violin, hidden away for a century in his college rooms, seemed to unhinge him entirely, leading him to a slow dissolution and death. Upon coming of age, Maltraver’s orphaned son is given two documents—one from his father’s best friend and another from his aunt—that tell the tale of his father’s strange life, give a short history of the mysterious violin, and tie Maltraver’s fate to the story of the violin’s notorious 18th Century owner, Adrian Temple.
This is the plot of John Meade Falkner’s The Lost Stradivarius, a short 19th Century English ghost story usually published at around 120 pages. At times it feels like a modern short story: the short chapters, the immediately engaging opening. At other times it feels like a long Victorian novel: the narrative documents nesting inside other narratives, the incessant moral commentary on our protagonist’s actions, the vague and “unspeakable” horrors. It’s an awkward mix, but one that I happen to like.
It’s definitely a novel for lovers of old ghost stories, but don’t expect to be scared witless. There are a few ghostly moments that Falkner portrays with admirable suspense, a couple dark-and-stormy-night set scenes, and some gloomy atmosphere in Oxford and Naples, but nothing to keep you up at night. If you’ve read all the classic early horror novels and are looking for something a little more obscure, this is well worth you’re time. If not, start with The Turn of the Screw or some M.R. James instead.
Available as a free download for Kindle, Nook, iPad, and just about every other eReader from Project Gutenberg.
Review by Matthew