‘Of course, I can convey nothing of that indescribable quality of translucent unreality, that difference from the common things of experience that hung about it all…’

That’s Lionel Wallace, who is telling Wells’s narrator about the magical garden he apparently found (or was it a dream?) as a child on going through a green door in a white wall. Despite coming across that same door several times subsequently, Wallace has never entered it again, though he has thought about it.

That quotation encapsulates neatly the ambivalence I felt towards M.R. James’s story, and feel again towards this one: to me, the best stories of the fantastic do and should ‘convey [the] quality of translucent unreality’ — and I don’t think Wells was writing at a time before there were stories that did so. I find the central metaphor of ‘The Door in the Wall’ (the ambivalence of longing — or not — for escape) eloquent; but there isn’t the true sense of fantasy that I want from a story of this type.

Rating: ***½

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