A Goose on Your Grave: Stories of Horror, Suspense and Fantasy. The collection as a whole feels cohesive; there are recurring themes such as time travel, the capabilities of the human mind to create and accept the extraordinary, a love of animals, particularly cats, and odd things in science and nature. Motifs from Aiken's entire YA and children's oeuvre are touched upon, such as the problems and inadequacies of well-meaning bureaucrats when it comes to children's welfare and different ways of escaping from and revenge on oppressive guardians (of all ages) and systems (from schools to societies). Within Goose on Your Grave, an image from one story occasionally resurfaces in another; in "The Old Poet" our suspicions as to why the rowan tree was significant for the one-eyed stranger in "Snow Horse" are confirmed. ("The Old Poet," by the way, about a young college student encountering an unexpected element of his great-grandfather's legacy, satirises the literary establishment with sardonic glee and contains one of the most surprising pieces of poetry criticism I've come across: "I did read the lyrics, on the plane going to Heathrow. They were very lyrical but quite dry-half Coke, half lemon. (71)) Mythology and modernity mingle with the Gothic and the traditionally ghostly to occasionally surreal effect. Few of the stories end happily; some end on a note of ambiguity and some downright sadly. Aiken has a bleak vision and an icy pen at times; she skewers the pretensions of the type of boys who casually torment their fellows, leaving no visible marks, in the name of good clean boyish hi-jinks in "The Blades," for example, and excessive psychological jargon without actual insight in "Aunt Susan" (a startlingly grownup tale in the vein of Roald Dahl's cruellest). "Potter's Grey" subverts the idea of "rose-coloured glasses" in an extreme way, and "The Last Specimen" is delightfully English and gently sorrowful.
Used availability for Joan Aiken's A Goose on Your Grave
May 1987 : UK Hardback
August 1989 : UK Paperback