I decided to start off my first review with a short story–you know, something small. But with Lovecraft it’s hardly ever as small as you initially think. I do really enjoy short stories and Lovecraft has some of my favorites. I was recently gifted his complete works so I’m sure his work will be recurring here frequently.
I read The White Ship late last night while in bed. The dim orange light from my salt lamp set the mood quite well–only could have been better with a fireplace and a storm howling outside. And, it has been awhile since I’ve read Lovecraft’s stories, so I went in with the expectation of being scared but this story was more…eerie.
Basil Elton is the narrator, and the story reads as if it is taken from a journal entry retelling events he experienced. And more than anything, this short story feels more like an experience.
There’s no great conflict but, for me, there was a feeling of being slightly disturbed throughout the work. Disturb in the sense of intrigue, on my part. I know I’m on this ride and things are going to get a bit odd before it lets me off. I’m not going to go through the story point by point but I’ll mention the moments that stood out to me and my take on some themes.
Elton beholds the white ship emerge from the south while the moon is full and high. There’s a lot of mysticism and superstitions around the full moon and in general the color white notes angelic themes, especially in contrast to a dark sea. This goes doubly so seeing the white bird flying with the ship as they sail and further still, by its presence as navigation.
But first, he sees a bearded, stoic man beckoning him onto the ship–this was great; as it gave the ship an ethereal depth. It’s as if the ship came into being just to mesmerise Elton and draw him away. From here he goes on a journey to magical places of legend.
I don’t want to give too much away but here’s one line that stood out to me, “The wind grew stronger, and the air was filled with the lethal, charnel odor of plague-stricken towns and uncovered cemeteries.” That is unnerving–and that’s why you should read The White Ship.
While the language can get a tad lofty, and there’s no great conflict; this short story creates a sense of unsettledness by its contrasting elegant descriptions which will leave you wondering in unease as Lovecraft does so well.