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February 2008
 
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Curiosities

Uneasy Freehold (retitled The Uninvited), by Dorothy Macardle (1941)

RODDY Fitzgerald and his sister Pamela discover an old Georgian house on a cliff top. It is the house of their dreams, and they promptly seek out the owner, Commander Brooke. He agrees to sell the property, to the dismay of his twenty-year-old granddaughter Stella. She had been born in the house but, when Stella was only three years old, her mother fell to her death over the cliff edge. A few days afterward, a Spanish girl, the mistress of Stella's artist father, also died.

The commander sells at a suspiciously low price. Village gossip implies the place is haunted, and mysterious happenings follow. It becomes a mystery story when it is finally revealed that two ghosts—one benevolent and one decidedly evil—haunt the house. The evil ghost is determined to drive young Stella over the cliff. The benevolent ghost protects her. Is one her mother and the other the Spanish mistress?

Described by The Times Literary Supplement as "the ideal ghost story," the book sold an immediate half million copies in the UK and was made into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Ray Milland.

Dorothy Macardle (1889-1958) was a famous Irish revolutionary, imprisoned in 1922, but had, by then, made a reputation as an author and Abbey Theatre playwright before becoming a republican and feminist campaigner. Her history The Irish Republic 1916-23 (1937) is still the standard work on the period. She also wrote several supernatural novels and short stories. When she died, she was accorded a state funeral attended by the president and members of all the parties in the Irish Parliament (the Dáil).

—Peter Tremayne

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