Charlies Dickens is famous for writing books about 19th-century poor people dealing with the 19th-century way of life. The last thing you’d expect from him is horror. A Christmas Carol had ghosts, but they weren’t scary (except the Ghost of ChrostmasFuture.) If you’re in the right bookstore at the right time you’ll find A Haunted House and think, “hey, something scary from Dickens. And it takes place during Christmas!” Alas, there is nothing scary here.
The setting is interesting enough: a man rents out a supposedly haunted house and invites a group of people to spend Christmas Eve there. The next day each person recounts the spirit they encountered during the night. Too bad the stories are just each spirit’s life and how they died. The deaths aren’t scary; they’re more somber than anything else.
This is also not really a novel but a collection of stories by different authors that Dickens collected in the Christmas issue of his journal All the Year Round. This is more than enough reason to read the introductions to these old books.
The quality of these stories, like any other short story anthology, depend on what you take out of them. I personally wasn’t really interested in any of the stories. Now, that doesn’t mean that this book has any merit. This book is an early example of a short story collection that has a story within it. While today these are a dime a dozen, this was pretty groundbreaking stuff back in the 19th-Century. It may not be widely read or even known even to literary scholars, but you have to admire what something like this did to create for future writers.
On the other hand, these stories are dry as all hell. Yes, they are tragic and show a tragic side to humanity, but the writing makes it slog to read and many modern readers will just quit. This isn’t something you read for fun, this is something you read to do research and write thesis papers on.
With that in mind, this will not replace A Christmas Carol nor will it come close to its success. It’s an interesting piece of literary history, but not so much something you’d read willfully unless you were suckered in by its title.