31 Shots of Shock #2: ‘The Rose Garden’ by M.R. James

*Title: ‘The Rose Garden’ by M.R. James.
Date Read: 02 October 2011
Available Online?: YES, but for this review I read from, M.R. James: The Collected Ghost Stories (Oxford University Press)
Briefly: On this particular day, the strong-willed Mrs. Anstruther is keen on setting up her new rose garden in a dark neglected corner of her estate. There are things to be moved – some old seats and a post – and the gardener, Collins has been charged with shifting them. It soon becomes apparent however, that peaceful things should remain undisturbed.
Afterthoughts: Scribed by James in 1911, this story is unusual in that the victim is female, rather than male. In every other story I’ve read thus far from James, the target for terror has always been male. Of course, reading my brief intro to this story you’d be forgiven for thinking that the poor old gardener Collins is going to cop it, but that’s not the case.

Is this a scary tale? Well, aside from one fleeting moment not really, at least not when compared to a story like Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad. For me there was just too much talking and expectation building, and not enough action in this story. I mean the scares are there, but only just.
Notable Quote: Within a few minutes Mr Anstruther had discovered Collins in the green-house, and they were on their way to the site of the projected rose garden. I do not know much about the conditions most suitable to these nurseries, but I am inclined to believe that Mrs Anstruther, though in the habit of describing herself as ‘a great gardener’, had not been well advised in the selection of a spot for the purpose. It was a small, dank clearing, bounded on one side by a path, and on the other by thick box-bushes, laurels, and other ever-greens. The ground was almost bare of grass and dark of aspect. Remains of rustic seats and an old and corrugated oak post somewhere near the middle of the clearing had given rise to Mr Anstruther’s conjecture that a summer-house had once stood there.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

*Story read as part of my 2011 31 Shots of Shock reading project.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. Good point on the gender. I hadn’t caught that. Again one of his ok stories rather than one of his greats I think.