Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The House Next Door - Anne Rivers Siddons

In the lineup of books for which I need to write reviews, this one was actually scheduled for sometime mid-November.  But it is actually the scariest book I've read in awhile, and therefore really deserved to be posted the day before Halloween.

I have one person, and one person ONLY to blame for me reading this pleasant-looking book.  And that would be Raych.  Thanks Raych.  I lost a little of my soul with this one (but I loved every minute of it).   


Synopsis:  Doesn't this book look peaceful and pretty?  Nothing menacing here.  Until you open the first chapter, and the narrator, one Colquitt Kennedy, tells you that the house next door is haunted, that she and her husband are warning the world, and they probably won't live much longer as a result.

Immediately Colquitt draws you into the story.  She starts with the first family...a young couple about to have their first child...that buys the beautiful wooded lot next door and hires a genius architect to build their dream house.  Colquitt and her husband Walter are affluent, Southern yuppies who love to have drinks on their back porch and have barbecues with their neighbors, so they welcome the couple, and the architect, with open arms.  Things start to go wrong almost immediately, but is chalked up to really unfortunate accidents.  (Since Raych warned you, I will too.  Dead puppies ahoy...and more.)

With each family that moves in and moves out of the house, the "incidents" get progressively worse.  It seems that the house, or the malevolent presence within it, seeks out the inhabitants' weaknesses and preys upon them.  And if the friendly neighbors get too close or too invested?  Well, no one is safe. 

My thoughts:  This is classic, organic horror...an evil house, an undefinable presence, human frailties laid out for all to see, with horrible consequences.  It is the stuff of Stephen King (in fact he named this book as one of the best 20th century novels in the genre).  It shocked me to learn that the book was written in 1978 by an author not even known for writing in the horror genre, but Southern fiction.  

This story is not gentle.  Sure, it is presented to us with Southern grace and charm.  Parties and cocktails and gardening and country clubs.  But behind the polite smiles and propriety is shocking, horrifying, grimace-inducing violence, destruction of lives, heavily laced with sex.  There were moments when my eyes were popping out of my skull, screaming "Oh my God!".  There is also a dark menacing cloud hanging overhead that is emphasized by Siddons' plentiful use of foreshadowing...you know the bad shit is coming, and you can't stop it.  I found it terrifying to imagine who or what would get it next.  Siddons has no sacred cows.  The cows can get thrown under the bus, right along with everyone and everything else.

I loved the characters scurrying around in this story.  Siddons had to have based them on people she knew, they were all so quirky and real, you could imagine them standing right in front of you, gossiping, crying, raging.  They weren't all likable, but they were unforgettable.  

For those who like classic, literary horror, served on a crystal platter with a round of mint juleps, you shouldn't miss out on this one.

5 out of 5         

    

16 comments:

Kerry Ann @Vinobaby's Voice said...

Intriguing. I've read many Anne Rivers Siddons novels and I've loved each one—I never realized she wrote such a creepy one. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the review.

Kay said...

This is one of my favorite books. Like nothing this author ever did before or since. Hard to describe the amount of creepiness! I concur on your rating. :-)

bermudaonion said...

I had no idea Siddons wrote horror. I'm not sure this is for me - I don't think I can afford to lose anymore of my soul right now.

raych said...

RIGHT? The writing is super-good, and also IT IS TERRIFYING. That never happens at the same time.

Freaky sentient house.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds WAY too scary for me!!!

The Novel Sphere (Melissa) said...

Huh 5 out of 5? Well I personally love scary books so will defintely be picking this one up. It is really hard to find a genuinely scary book, especially one that also has fantastic character development. Can't wait!

Zibilee said...

Oh wow! This does sound like a contender for scariest book around! I haven't been really scared since Kevin, but I think this would scare the pants off of me. Off to look for it now. Thanks for the great review!

Julie P. said...

Seriously? I had absolutely no idea that she wrote a book like this!

Tasha B. said...

That really does not look like a horror novel.

Anita said...

That sounds great!! I've got a list of horror books for next October...or sooner, depending on mood.
Thanks Sandy

Melody said...

That book cover is sure deceiving. The story sounds good; I'll have to check it out!

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

When I saw the cover and author's name with your post title, I thought, "Huh?" I'm intrigued...especially by your description of classic literary horror with a round of mint julips ;) but what's it gonna do to me if it scared you???? I might give it a try though...gracious!

Anna said...

I love the sound of this one!

Beth F said...

Okay, so I could barely get past the "This is classic, organic horror" part of your review let alone actually read the book.

JoAnn said...

I love Anne Rivers Siddons, but had no idea she wrote horror. Not my usual reading fare...

Melissa said...

This is totally not a book I would pick up, but when I was scrolling by the cover I wondered what you were doing reading a romance, and had to go back and see what the deal was!