Tags: book challenge


R.I.P. Challenge book #1

Yesterday I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I had wanted to finish The Fortnight in September before starting on the R.I.P. Challenge, but I was in the mood for something more exciting and even though the afternoon had been reasonably sunny, it was chilly enough that I had to turn the central heating on for the first time again, which helped create the necessary autumn feel.

So I picked Shirley Jackson's book to read first. I had expected it to be really scary, but it wasn't at all, probably because it was a thriller and not a horror story, as I had thought. It was full of suspense and creepy, but not in a "leaving me wanting to sleep with the lights on" kind of way. In fact, when I rolled into bed after finishing it at 1.30 a.m. I slept like a baby.

I did enjoy it. Jackson writes very well, she knows how to create an atmosphere and a sense of foreboding, and while reading I thought it must surely deserve 4 stars (out of 5), but in the end I was left feeling slightly disappointed. Yet another 3-star book. (But funnily enough, in some ways it reminded me of my favourite Ruth Rendell, Heartstones.)

It is true that I would have liked to know more of the "why", but I suspect it is not so much Jackson's fault as it is my own frame of mind at the moment. I'm starting to think I have lost the capacity for unbridled enthusiasm concerning the books I read. I gave The Dolls' House 4 stars recently, but that was a re-read and perhaps more for old times' sake, because I had loved it as a child and spent many years tracking it down. The last newly read book I gave 4 stars to was Sylvia Townsend Warner's Letters, and that was in May. Oh, well. It'll pass, I hope.

By the way, if you plan on reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle for the first time and come across it in the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition, be sure to do as I did and save the introduction until last, as Jonathan Lethem happily reveals way too much. Even while looking for the first page I couldn't help catching a word here and there which made me deduce a couple of things I'd rather found out about while reading the actual story. The less you know about it, the more you'll enjoy it.


Ready for autumn


Danielle's post on Carl's R.I.P. Challenge made me aware of this yearly event running from 1 September through 31 October, when participants read one, two, or four books fitting into the following categories:

Dark Fantasy

Usually these challenges don't appeal to me because all too soon it starts to feel like homework, but reading one book of your choice must be doable for anyone and as I had planned on reading a few scary novels this autumn anyway, I decided to join and do Peril #2: read two books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories.

Scouring my shelves I was surprised to find at least 25 books that fitted into these categories. Here is my shortlist of 9 titles:

Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle — a recent addition to my library

Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue — also bought recently

Albert Sánchez Piñol: Nachtlicht (La pell freda/Cold Skin)

A.A. Merritt: Burn, Witch, Burn! — pulp, but a R.I.P.ing yarn nevertheless. I tore through this twice when I was a teen (in the Dutch translation, with the less sensationalist title De poppen van Madame Mandilip), and probably will again. Public domain.

W.F. Hermans: De donkere kamer van Damokles (The Darkroom of Damocles) — this is also a reread. The English translation that appeared recently is very good and I urge everyone to read it, because this brilliant Dutch classic deserves a wider audience.

Poppy Z. Brite: His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood and other stories

A.M. Homes: The End of Alice

Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White

Shirley Jackson: The Lottery — a (very) short story, also public domain.

I hope to be able to read four of these, but as I had already planned on reading some other books in September, I will be happy with two.

Oh yes, and I intend to watch The Woman in Black (based on the novel by Susan Hill), and A Bucket of Blood. Finally!