Halloween Read: “Slade House” by David Mitchell

slade house

Fans of the trippy, menacing, and occult, take note of Slade House for this Halloween.  It’s a haunted house story with a little something extra.

Down a little side street near a pub, there’s an old house called Slade House.  However, it’s not there all the time, not anymore.   Just once every nine years or so, when the brother and sister who live there invite someone inside.  And then never let them leave.

I don’t want to give away too much of the intricate plot, but I will say that the story spans decades and tells the story of several of the “guests” of Slade House.  It’s reality-bending and very creepy.  And once you know what the stakes are, the constant uneasy and confusing atmosphere becomes threatening.

Slade House is compelling, intricate, and has a great atmosphere of danger and confusion.  If  you like haunted house stories with a twist, give this a look!

 

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Marie’s Reading: “The Sundial” by Shirley Jackson

sundialThe Halloran family has gathered in their crumbling ancestral mansion for a funeral.  One morning Aunt Fanny has a vision wherein her long-dead father gives her the exact date of the end of the world.  If the Hallorans stay in their family manse, they will be the sole survivors and inheritors of a bright clean world.

As you read, you wonder why these people deserve it.

Given the subject, it seems odd to say that The Sundial is one of Shirley Jackson’s funnier novels.  It’s like You Can’t Take It With You with the apocalypse instead of the IRS.  Also, this family is full of rather mean people who hate one another rather than a kooky assortment of loving individuals.  Oh, and there’s also the probable murder and unsettling open ending. But really, it’s funny, in a character-based screwball comedy kind of way.

I had my pick of fantastically weird cover art for this one, and I chose my favorite because I think it reflects the core of the story: a dysfunctional family trapped together in an old house, bouncing off one another, and waiting for doomsday.  Jackson always did oppressive atmosphere very well, and it’s approaching Hill House levels at the Halloran mansion.  But, as I said, with some levity.  There is a note of discord about this one, where it maybe doesn’t quite know what it wants to be–but somehow all the pieces make a delightfully odd whole.

The Sundial reflects a lot of Shirley Jackson’s interest in the occult, from divination to doomsday to symbols.  And, as ever, her fascination with the intricacies of small-town life, from the villagers to the odd old family on the hill in their suffocating Gothic home.

Weird fiction fans, give this one a look!

–Marie