The House on Parchment Street by Patricia McKillip
I 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.