This Blog Post Is On The House

Fictional characters are female, male, black, white, poor, rich, nice, not nice, and…four-walled?

Yes, houses can be memorable enough to almost seem like characters. In fact, some literary works even have “house” in their titles: The House of the Spirits (Isabel Allende), The House of the Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne), The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson), The House on the Strand (Daphne du Maurier), House of Sand and Fog (Andre Dubus III), The Professor’s House (Willa Cather), Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder), and “The Fall of the House of Usher” (Edgar Allan Poe), to name just a few.

I thought of the idea for this post while reading a nonfiction book: Cathy Turney’s just-published Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success. I have absolutely no desire to be a Realtor, but I was interested in the book because Cathy is a friend and because my house got sold last year. Given that I usually read fiction, I couldn’t help thinking of houses in literature as I read about real-life California houses in Cathy’s funny and informative book.

The California dwelling in House of Sand and Fog is a relatively modest one, but the fight over its ownership is major. That disastrous battle is between a former Iranian military man and a former drug addict — the latter finding an ally (and lover) in a married, ethics-challenged sheriff who may find himself in The Big House (jail, not the University of Michigan’s football stadium).

The Haunting of Hill House is understated as horror novels go, but the abode in that novel is quite a spooky place that seems to almost have a mind of its own. As for “The Fall of the House of Usher,” well, I think the title gives you a clue about what happens to that dwelling. But not before some macabre moments.

In Margaret Drabble’s The Witch of Exmoor, the brilliant/eccentric Frieda Haxby Palmer is rather a mystery to her children and grandchildren as she abandons her former life to live in a rambling, rundown former hotel by the sea.

The dwelling in Morag Joss’ Half Broken Things is a fancy mansion being taken care of by a house-sitter. Then things get psychologically weird as Jean has others move in — including a “son” who is not really her son and a pregnant “daughter-in-law.” They create a kind of family until…

Another impressive structure is Thornfield Hall — a house in which Jane Eyre finds mystery, happiness, and heartbreak in Charlotte Bronte’s novel. One of the strongest scenes is near the end of the book when Jane returns to the grounds of Thornfield Hall after many months, slowly moves into position to catch a full view of its impressive facade, and…

The awe-inspiring, seemingly impregnable mountain castle in Where Eagles Dare is being used as a Nazi headquarters in Alistair MacLean’s novel, but the book makes several references to the castle’s history as a private residence for “one of the madder of the Bavarian monarchs.”

On a more positive note, the castle of L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle is an idealized structure of Valancy Stirling’s imagination. But the beleaguered character does eventually find a wonderful home and relationship; the question is whether she’ll live to enjoy both. In Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, the structure of the title is a lovely refuge for Anne Shirley — though the orphan girl’s life certainly holds some challenges after she arrives there.

Literature offers more modest dwellings, too. For instance, Hagrid’s hut is just a small place on the grounds of Hogwarts in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Yet Harry, Hermione, and Ron often visit — and some interesting and important things happen in or near that diminutive dwelling.

There are also huts in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, a lighthouse keeper’s basic cottage on remote Janus Rock (off the southwest coast of Australia) in M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans, and the opium den (operating during New Zealand’s 19th-century Gold Rush) that I think doubles as a minimal residence for its proprietor in Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries.

Many other novels depict impoverished characters living in ramshackle homes — including the shacks and shanties of John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat, the slave dwellings of Alex Haley’s Roots and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the Jim Crow-era housing of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. (Say, will there ever be a second book by Ms. Lee? ๐Ÿ™‚ )

One of the more singular homes in literature lies in the middle of a colonial New York lake in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Deerslayer. Tom Hutter lives there to try to protect himself from the Native Americans he and most other white men have been treating so badly.

What are the houses you remember most in literature? Mentions of apartments and other dwellings are welcome, too.

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area โ€” unless youโ€™re replying to someone else. Also, please feel free to read through comments and reply to anyone you want; I love not only being in conversations, but also reading conversations in which I’m not involved!)

For three years of my Huffington Post literature blog, click here.

I’m also writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in New York City and Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

201 thoughts on “This Blog Post Is On The House

  1. How could I forget after all these citations of memorable houses, the only short story that I’m aware of in which there are NO human or animal or mythological sentient beings: Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains,” one of the last stories that appear in ‘The Martian Chronicles.” The story is the tale of an abandoned ‘automatic’ house left on Mars after the residents and most of the other colonists leave Mars to go back to war-torn, nuclear-threatened Earth because it is their HOME, even if they are destroyed along with it. The houses functions on its own. Toasters toast bread in the morning, alarms go off, laundry does itself, all the household functions that humane could technologically relegate to computers/machines running without them. Even though its residents have abandoned it, the house continues to run itself until….whenever its ‘batteries’ run down/machinery breaks down, etc. Ray’s singular, poetic prose is perfect at evoking that isolated ‘abandoned planet’ atmosphere. It’s the ultimate ‘deserted house’ story.

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    • Fantastic and haunting addition to this discussion, Brian! I own “The Martian Chronicles,” and have read it, but that was MANY years ago.

      Speaking of Ray Bradbury and houses, I’m sure you read about the terrible recent razing of the Los Angeles home Bradbury lived in for many decades by some rich bozo who didn’t care about preserving such a wonderful piece of literary history. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-ray-bradbury-house-postmortem-20150122-story.html

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        • That’s it exactly, Brain. Real estate development and “property rights” seem to trump everything, including literature. This greed is everywhere — including my town, where wealthy developers get virtually everything they want. This has included permission to knock down 19th-century structures to build high-priced (but shoddy) housing.

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          • I’m grateful that Mark Twain’s homes, Faulkner’s house and several other literary residences haven’t been tampered with. Of course, there have been long-term preservation efforts connected with each of those sites as well as many other homes of major writers. I also think that if Ray had passed away even 20 years earlier than he did some mercenary developer might not have swooped in before any preservation efforts were initiated. One of the lamentable aspects of this 21st century we’re living in I suppose.

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            • That IS something to be grateful for, Brian. Some very historic houses were used for other things for a number of years before reverting to “museums” honoring their deceased author owners, but at least they weren’t razed.

              What a pleasure it is to visit places like the Twain houses (I’ve been to the Hartford, Conn., one but not the Hannibal, Mo., one); the Herman Melville house in Pittsfield, Mass.; and non-author sites such as the Mary Todd Lincoln house in Lexington, Ky.

              And I agree that in this second “Gilded Age,” mercenary developers and others of the wealthy class unfortunately have more clout than they did a few decades ago.

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          • In NYC, with no small regret, I have had to learn to live without a great many lovely bits of architecture and historical sites, all done under the sign and power of Mammon. My consolation: ’twas ever thus, from Pegleg Pete till now. Madison Square Garden has been famous for a century plus, but over that time it has sported three addresses for three entirely different constructions– such is what sometimes passes for longevity in these parts. Even street names can be trickily antique– Pearl and Beaver Streets, I was surprised to learn in an edition of Valentine’s Manual, were not always their names. From the sound of them, I had always assumed they’d had their names all along. Nope.

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            • Thanks, jhNY! NYC is indeed one of those places where too many historic buildings have met the wrecking ball thanks to avaricious developers and the politicians who enable them. The old, beautiful, ornate Penn Station’s demise is one of countless examples.

              Madison Square Garden’s three locations/one name is certainly a travesty — as is MSQ’s current, rich, entitled jerk of an owner.

              Wow — I also thought Pearl and Beaver were always so named!

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  2. Lastly, this week’s topic affords me yet one more opportunity to tout “The Leopard” by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, or more exactly, to employ the novel as an example of our topic of the week.

    The Prince of Salinas has many estates, and several palaces, though fewer than his grandfather, and nearly everything that remained to him endured in a precarious state of disrepair or neglect, due to the constraints of finance, politics and family obligation. The most memorable of the palaces in the novel is the Sicilian Donnafugata, where the prince’s nephew and his soon-to-be fiance whiled away the long summer hours in games of hide and seek among its innumerable rooms. Whole wings of the place had been abandoned by the living,and corridors and doors led off to places no one could remember. One set of rooms were particularly intriguing:

    “in one of the rooms in the old guest wing they noticed a door hidden by a cupboard; the centuries-old lock soon gave way to fingers pleasantly entwined in forcing it: behind it a long narrow staircase wound up in gentle curves of pink marble steps. At the top was another door, open, and covered with thick but tattered padding; then came a charming but odd little apartment, of six small rooms gathered around a medium-sized drawing room, all, including the drawing room, with floors of whitest marble, sloping away slightly toward a small lateral gutter. On the low ceilings were some very unusual reliefs in colored stucco, fortunately made almost indecipherable by damp; on the walls were big surprised-looking mirrors, hung too low, one shattered by a blow almost in the middle, and each fitted with contorted rococo candle brackets. The windows gave onto a segregated court, a kind of blind and deaf well, which let in a gray light and had no other openings. In every room and even in the drawing room were wide, too wide sofas, showing nails with traces of silk that had been torn away; spotty armrests; in the fireplaces were delicate intricate little marble intaglios, naked figures in paroxysms but mutilated by some furious hammer.”

    Paints a picture, don’t it?

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    • I’ve looked a couple times for “The Leopard” in my local library. No luck yet, but I will get my hands on it eventually. ๐Ÿ™‚

      “Paints a picture” is an understatement. That is a wonderful, richly detailed passage. Abandoned homes, or parts of abandoned homes, can be endlessly fascinating. A whole different genre, but I’m reminded a tiny bit of those explorations of ancient dwellings in a great novella you recommended a number of months ago: H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness.”

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  3. Now I have time enough to send this in– ‘now’ being almost too late…

    Houses figure in mightily throughout fiction of nearly every type, perhaps in no genre more than ghost stories. Last week I finally stumbled upon a ghost story I’d read more than forty years ago, and it features a house, most extensively haunted and under a curse: “The Haunted and the Haunters”, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, he of “it was a dark and stormy night” fame. I am happy to report plenty of darkness, but no storm, which proves the author is no one dimensional talent.

    The house, after many strange and uncanny events of the usual sort in such tales– apparitions, moaning, a dark malignant force appearing to engulf the spectral images of lovers, etc.– is searched thoroughly in daylight hours, and is found to contain a secret area in which, among other charmed objects, there is discovered a hidden dish of liquid, on which “floated a kind of compass, with a needle shifting rapidly round; but instead o the usual points of a compass were seven strange characters, not very unlike those used by astrologers to denote the planets.” Under the dish was a tablet containing “one sheet of thick vellum, and on that sheet were inscribed within a double pentacle, words in old monkish Latin….: ‘On all that it can reach within these walls– sentient or inanimate, living or dead– as moves the needle, so works my will! Accursed be the house and restless be the dwellers therein.'” When the dish and needle were removed, the house shook, and the curse, after a century of secret working, was ended, by which time a child had died of abuse, and three people had come to violent ends.

    For some reason, the notion of a place held under malignant charm by an act of witchery, which would do its work so long as it was left undisturbed, fascinated me when I first read what is otherwise a good, though ordinary ghost story. It was hardly less entertaining the second time around. So here’s an example of a story where the house itself is the most powerful force and character in the tale!

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    • Great point, jhNY, that houses are a BIG element of ghost stories. There’s of course Peter Straub’s…”Ghost Story,” tales such as Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost,” etc. I’m drawing a blank on specific story names, but I imagine there must have been some spooky houses in a collection of Ambrose Bierce’s ghost/horror stories I read a few years ago.

      Thanks for the interesting description of “The Haunted and the Haunters,โ€ and the wry reference to Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s “multidimensional” talents. That was funny! A house being the star of a novel is a memorable house indeed.

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  4. Hi Dave, another thought provoking topic

    โ€˜In One Person,โ€™ John Irvingโ€™s latest Novel, is about Billy Abbot narrated by adult Billy, who became a famous Irving-like writer named William Abbott and is nearly 70, is about what it means to be bisexual, famous writer and afflicted with whatever Billy had to go through growing up.

    Billy grew up in a HOUSE with fun loving happy spirit of his cross-dressing Grandpa Harry who loved the theater and particularly loved to play female roles. The many productions of Shakespeare, directed by Billyโ€™s stepfather, Richard Abbott, also leave their mark.
    Billy grew up in the same house with his moody whimsical and often theatrical mother and stepfather who was very kind and understanding toward Billy. The mysterious identity of Billyโ€™s real father will come back to haunt the book.

    โ€œIn One Personโ€ is its open fascination with bisexuality, cross-dressing, the politics of gender bending and the ravages of the AIDS epidemic.

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    • Thanks, bebe, for the great description of John Irving’s book! Sounds like a VERY interesting house lived in by VERY interesting characters. I have a lot of respect for the way Irving addresses important and/or offbeat issues in his various works.

      By the way, I went to the library today, and among the novels I borrowed were two by authors you like: John Grisham (“The Firm”) and Lee Child (“A Wanted Man”). I’m now on the “One Jack Reacher Thriller Per Library Visit” diet. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • Dave you would like The Firm a great thriller and the movie was good as well played by , guess who…Tom Cruise the Richer in the Lee Child movie.
        I like your library visit diet..Reacher is the character who grows on you.
        We want a real Reacher as our personal friend !

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        • Ha, bebe! Jack Reacher would be an excellent friend to have!

          Tom Cruise really does get around. I hadn’t realized he was in a John Grisham movie. As long as he doesn’t play Scout in a “Go Set a Watchman” film. ๐Ÿ™‚

          Thanks for your thoughts on “The Firm” novel. I can’t wait to read it! But I probably won’t be able to resist reading the Lee Child book first (after I finish the novel I’m reading now — Stendhal’s “The Charterhouse of Parma”). So far, I’m not finding that 1839 book very absorbing, but it’s early…

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          • Actually the movie Firm was a good movie, if you borrow you would thorough enjoy, it is filmed long time ago really suspenseful.
            I was thinking we had fun discussing 50 S of Grey..in the other site when none of us had read the trilogy. Now the movie is out and the review is hilarious by A.O. Scott..if you have not read it by now here it is..http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/movies/submitting-to-the-power-of-a-runaway-best-seller.html?rref=movies

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            • Thanks, bebe!

              Even though I’m not fond of Tom Cruise’s personality, he has done some excellent acting and I’m not surprised he helped make “The Firm” a good film.

              I remember our fun discussions of “Fifty Shades of Grey” at HP! I still have absolutely no interest in reading the novel(s) or seeing the film, but I agree that A.O. Scott wrote a funny, terrific review. (Terrific review, not terrific movie. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

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          • For me, the book was a romp, start to finish, and I was happy to follow wherever the story and its author led me– with Stendahl, I’m sort of a Nipper in regards to His Master’s Voice.. If you manage to make it all the way to where the Charterhouse of Parma actually rates a mention in the book, you will have come quite a ways.

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            • Thanks, jhNY! I’m liking “The Charterhouse of Parma” MUCH better now. When I mentioned it to bebe, I was just about 20 pages into it and having a bit of trouble sorting out the characters and with Stendhal’s early exposition. Now I’m hooked. The pages about the naive Fabrizio’s teenaged battlefield experiences in the waning days of the Napoleonic wars are priceless.

              “…with Stendhal, Iโ€™m sort of a Nipper in regards to His Masterโ€™s Voice” — love that line!

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              • Does the edition you are reading contain the letter from Balzac to Stendahl, sent after he had read The Charterhouse of Parma 3(!) times? Hope so, as it’s wonderful So is Stendahl’s reply. Shades of Melville and Hawthorne’s correspondence re the whale tome….

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                • The edition I’m reading (Modern Library, 1999) quotes from a rave Balzac review of “The Charterhouse of Parma” on the jacket, but doesn’t contain that letter to Stendhal. I’ll look for it online after I finish. Wow — Balzac read the novel three times? “That’s amore”… ๐Ÿ™‚

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                    • Regarding ‘f’ words in classic translations, the Richard Pevear/Larissa Volokhonsky translation of ‘War and Peace’ has a few ‘f’s and a few ‘sh–‘s for that matter, mostly uttered by the Russian commander and his soldiers.

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                    • Interesting! I haven’t read “War and Peace” in a long time, but I’m thinking the edition I did read did not have four-letter words. Now if we begin to see the “f” word in a Jane Austen novel translated into some non-English language, civilization as we know it will end… ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. Bram Stoker is mainly known for Dracula, but he wrote another short story I like which happens to have a dwelling theme. In The Judge’s House, a young college student named Malcolm was looking for a secluded home and community where he could study and read w/o interference. He eventually found an old vacant house that he felt suited his needs.

    Everyone Malcolm mentioned this house to, from the innkeeper where he was temporarily living to the real estate agent who was responsible for the listing of the house, warned him about the house’s reputation. Wild rumours were floating around because the previous owner of the house was a judge who was known for abusing and harshly punishing his prisoners. He was a sociopath who experienced joy out of delivering pain. Malcolm didn’t care about the rumours; he wanted and rented the house anyway.

    Weird things started happening once he got settled. Noises and unexplained clapping sounds, but the presence of the rats was the creepiest. There was one large rat who took an interest in Malcolm and silently studied him at night. It just sat and stared at him with cold, evil eyes. Malcolm recognised those eyes as the eyes of the infamous judge whose oil painting hung on the wall in the dining room.

    Malcolm became unnerved because he saw a connection between the judge and the one large rat. At one point, he looked back at the oil painting of the judge and didn’t see him in that painting anymore…because the judge was actually sitting in a chair looking at Malcolm just as the rat did. So it’s like the judge’s body was reincarnated as the rat, but eventually, the judge’s true physical form came out, and he allowed his presence to be known.

    The judge tied a noose around Malcolm’s neck (hanging was a popular punishment he gave to his prisoners); townspeople found Malcolm’s body in the dining room awhile later.

    This short story literally gave me chills. I was ok until I got to the part about the rats. I kind of saw where Stoker was going when he kept focusing on the cold cruel eyes of the judge and the one main rat. This was 19th century horror-writing at its finest. Duty calls, so have a good day, Dave.

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    • Bram Stoker is known so much for “Dracula” that one doesn’t always think about his other work — but, as you know, there’s plenty of it. Thanks for mentioning one example, and for that marvelous summary. The rat and judge connection — yikes! Sounds like a great, truly horrific tale.

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    • I read that very story about five years ago. I liked it, but i guess it all depends on how much rat-fear the reader brings to the party. Myself, a wizened old vet of NYC, may have a higher tolerance for the scurrying scavengers than you. And it may just be that Malcolm hanged himself, having been over-mastered by his imagination, as has was already, before arrival, in some danger of mental exhaustion, given the pressure he put upon himself and his studies.

      But as you’ve mentioned Dracula, I will offer: the old vampire’s digs in the wilds of Transylvania are also well-described– ancient, blasted, haunted by forgotten history and seductive spirits. Then there’s that guy that sleeps in the basement.

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      • I wonder if George Orwell ever read “The Judgeโ€™s House,” and if that Bram Stoker story consciously or subconsciously was in his thoughts when creating Winston Smith’s great fear in “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

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        • Or Kosinski, given all the rats in the fields–seemingly zillions!– he describes vividly in one of his books. Most likely, all the authors associated with rat stories had a proper horror of them borne out of experience or overworked imagination….a rat or two is one thing, but I figure every human gets the heebie-jeebies when they run about in a frenzy and in great numbers.

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          • Very true, jhNY. One doesn’t need to have read a novel with rats to have some visceral fear of those creatures — whether that fear is based on reality and/or imagination. I’m assuming the 1950-deceased Orwell didn’t see the 1971 movie “Willard”… ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • The repetitious description of the main rat’s cold evil eyes and how those eyes silently stared at Malcolm was very creepy to me. Not to say that the other rats scrambling/scratching around in the walls and hanging on the alarm bell were not scary, but that one rat literally gave me chills.

        As far as Malcolm’s death, in the Portuguese edition that I read, it was clear that the judge hung him from the alarm bell. He made a noose out of a long piece of rope that the huge rat chewed off, placed Malcolm on a chair, tied the rope to the alarm, and removed the chair from underneath his feet. Did the English edition leave Malcolm’s death somewhat open-ended and cast some doubt on the judge’s actions? I know some things tend to get lost in translation.

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        • I doubt that the editions differ, and believe both my version, which is in a collection Great Tales of the Supernatural, Collected by Stephanie Warwick(Everyman edition, 1978) and what you read are one and the same— unless you read something translated INTO Portuguese.

          My proposed interpretation stems from the fact that the circumstances of his hanging is witnessed by Malcolm Malcolmson only, excepting the narrator, who seems to be recounting the events as they were experienced by Malcolm. But that narrator is very much in sympathy with his main character’s interpretation of events– I think you can take the narrator’s account with a grain of salt, if not suspicion. But perhaps I’ve read in more than is on the page…

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          • I stopped by the library yesterday before going to work and decided at the last minute to pull out my tattered, dog-eared copy of Bram Stoker short stories to take with me. I located another collection at the library, and read both versions of The Judgeโ€™s House to compare. Other than a few minor differences like the title (in my book, โ€œThe Judgeโ€™s Houseโ€ reads as โ€œA Casa do Juizโ€ โ€“ โ€œThe House of the Judgeโ€), the content is exactly the same in both editions.

            In reading both stories though, I did come across something that makes your theory credible. Iโ€™d completely forgotten that Malcolm had been treated for mild hallucinations and nervousness after living in that house for a few days. Doctorโ€™s name was Dr. Thornhill, and it probably wasnโ€™t the smartest thing in the world to do, but he was the person who even told Malcolm about the significance of the alarm bell rope (Judge used it to hang his prisoners)โ€ฆthe same rope that was used in Malcolmโ€™s death.

            And it might not be a coincidence that he began paying closer attention to the rats on the alarm bell rope after learning its history.
            He has already on edge, paranoid, under a doctorโ€™s care, tremendous academic stress, and was headed towards a mental breakdown. So itโ€™s not too far-fetched to say that he may have taken his own life. I donโ€™t see it as reading too much into the story. You offered another angle into Malcolmโ€™s death, another interpretation, and thatโ€™s what literature is supposed to doโ€ฆmake one think about the box.

            Thanks for this brief discussion. I hadnโ€™t thought about this short story in years. And many thanks to Dave for even coming up with this topic that allowed me to bring the story up in the first place. Have a good weekend.

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          • And a very nice one. When I was writing music reviews aeons ago, I covered his performance at a smallish club in Washington DC. Wonderful show, and one I managed to finish writing up just a minute after he’d left the stage, so I had time to go backstage. There, Waits asked me to read my review aloud to him (I would have had to, as I have the handwriting of a drunken doctor), and liked it well enough that next day, during a radio interview, he read it on air for his listeners.

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        • I think I’m on punishment. This has happened before. I posted a bunch of pics back to back a few months ago, and it was reported as spam by one of my followers.

          I post pics of myself and things I buy at thrift stores. That’s not exactly spam-material. Ridiculous. Twitter can get just as silly as FB sometimes.

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          • That does not seem like an offense at all! Those social-media companies and their algorithms can indeed get silly at times. I was once partly banned from FB for 15 days and I still have no idea why. I contacted FB a couple of times to ask why, and of course never got a reply. Perhaps they were channeling HP… ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • I hear you, Telly. I guess it’s a bit more complicated in Harper Lee’s case, because her upcoming novel was written before the immortal “To Kill a Mockingbird” (even though the upcoming novel takes place later in time).

      It’s hard to imagine “Go Set a Watchman” being anywhere as good as “Mockingbird,” especially since “Go Set” is in effect Ms. Lee’s debut novel, but I still look forward to reading it.

      The question, of course, is whether Ms. Lee is totally behind the publishing or whether this is some kind of exploitation of an 88-year-old author reportedly not in the best of health.

      Thanks for commenting!

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      • I had no idea that the ‘new’ one was written so long ago, so thanks for that Dave. I’m very much looking forward to reading it, but I don’t think I have any specific expectations. It feels kind of similar to when a movie adaptation is made. If it’s good, great! If it’s bad, well I’ll just curl up with the book. If Go Set doesn’t quite work, for whatever reason, I can always fix it by reading Mockingbird

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        • You’re welcome — and very wise words, Susan! Even if “Go Set a Watchman” is so-so, I think it will be fascinating to see Scout depicted as an adult and Atticus as 20 years older.

          And your mention of movie adaptations makes me wonder if we may see a “Go Set a Watchman” film at some point. Hmm… ๐Ÿ™‚

          Thanks for commenting!

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            • Great point, Donny!

              Of course, publishers are sometimes clueless, but in that case Harper Lee was urged to tell things from the POV of Scout as a girl — so that publisher had a clue there! I’d be happy if “Go Set a Watchman” is just a good novel.

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  6. The House of Sand and Fog was disturbing and affected me both mentally and physically. There are a few more books that have houses as a dominant theme mostly taking place in London or outside of London, but I can’t remember the titles or the authors. I wish I had a list of all the hundreds of books I’ve read. I donate them after I read them and I guess Kindle would be best for keeping a record. However, I love to hold a book.

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    • Thanks, Claire! I totally agree that “House of Sand and Fog” is a very painful book to read. Awful things happen, and the three main characters are not very sympathetic. But a riveting novel.

      About 15 years ago, I started keeping a list of novels I’ve read (which really helps in writing this blog ๐Ÿ™‚ ). But I wish had started that list earlier.

      Great that you donate books after you read them! Like you, I still read books on paper.

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  7. Hi Dave … You know, I love your column because it always makes me think and I always come away knowing more than when I started; however, I’ve lately begun to question whether I’ve actually read more than a dozen books in my entire life — perhaps I’ve just misremembered ๐Ÿ™‚ But I’ve got this one! … and since I may never be able to do this again, I’m going to name every one I can think of, right here and right now, lol!

    “The Diary of Anne Frank”; Stephen King’s “The Shining” (who could ever forget the Overlook Hotel!); Shirley Jackson’s “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” … and Edith Nesbit’s “The Enchanted Castle”; Carrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place”; “Fatal Vision” by Joe McGinniss — the forensic investigation of the home in which Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald murdered his wife and children was what ultimately put him away for life; “All the King’s Men” by Robert Penn Warren — Willie Stark started his political career in a rural shack and ended up in the governor’s mansion; Stephen King’s “Misery” takes place in the house of the main character’s “biggest fan”; Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” — the Clutter family’s house is integral to the story; “The Firm” by John Grisham — the main character’s beautiful house, provided by the law firm for which he works, is also being bugged by that firm; and finally, how about “The Three Little Pigs?” ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • “The Three Little Pigs” — hilarious ending to a great comment, Pat! Thanks for the kind words and for naming all those books in which a house figures prominently. And I’m sure the number of novels you’ve read is infinitely more than a dozen. ๐Ÿ™‚

      “Misery”! Just seeing the title of that book makes me shudder thinking about that fictional author’s imprisonment and torture. “All the King’s Men” is an excellent example of houses helping to show how a character has risen or fallen in life. Etc.!

      After seeing your description of “The Firm,” I’m going to try to finally read that novel in the near future.

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    • Great comment, Pat. I often feel like I mention the same books over and over again, but this particular column made me think of some great scenery (not always houses) in pretty much every book I could think of, even the bad ones! And I didn’t even think of The Overlook, which is quite shameful really, as I’m a big King fan. As a reader, it’s generally the characters that make or break a book for me, but spending the last couple of days thinking about some of these beautiful places has been good fun. Thanks Dave!

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      • You’re very welcome, Susan. ๐Ÿ™‚

        And Stephen King IS an excellent author. Even some of his lesser-known titles — such as “From a Buick 8” — are gems. As I mentioned elsewhere, occasionally King does so-so work, but that will happen when an author is as astoundingly productive as he is.

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        • I recently read Duma Key and didn’t love it, but my least liked King book would be The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. If I remember correctly, that’s one you haven’t read yet? I think if an author is producing 4 or 5 great books for every dud they write, they’re doing something right, but I think King’s ratio of bad to good is much higher than that, so I can forgive him the occasional bad ones

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          • You’re right, Susan — I haven’t read “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon,” and probably won’t given how you feel about it.

            My least favorite Stephen King novel is “Cell,” but at least the title is short enough to not have used much ink when I wrote it onto my “read” list. ๐Ÿ™‚

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            • I’ve heard GREAT things about Cell. It’s funny actually, because a few months ago I wanted to read a ‘new’ King, and I remembered that either Duma Key or Cell had been raved about, but couldn’t remember which one. After a bit of googling, I decided on Duma Key, and was SO disappointed with it, I figured Cell must have been the novel that people raved about. But apparently the only thing it has going for it is its short title ๐Ÿ™‚

              Lots of people seem to like Tom Gordon, and it’s not a long book, so I wouldn’t let my dislike of it put you off. Maybe you need to like baseball (or at least understand the sport) to ‘get it’?

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              • Well, literary tastes are so subjective. ๐Ÿ™‚ Everyone has different tastes. I liked the concept of “Cell,” but not the way it was written.

                The baseball thing could indeed have been a factor, Susan, with the “Tom Gordon” book. I know if I read a novel with, say, a strong cricket or (non-American) football theme, I’d be partly lost!

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  8. Hi Dave, taking a breather from my work – fun blog! The first house that came to mind is the luxurious mansion built by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” as Jay Gatsby’s base of operations in his plans to conquer Daisy, but cannot recall if it had an official name. I suspect the only reason I remember the house is because I saw the movie after reading the book, and had a permanent crush on Robert Redford. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Kafka’s “The Castle” impressed me with its mystery, but am not sure if it qualifies as a “house”; it’s a dwelling for the powers that be, and has been interpreted as being more of a symbol than a brick & mortar building. Many of the many Great Houses of England have already been mentioned, so I will suggest Blandings House, the background for the silly and funny escapades of Bert Wooster and Jeeves in some of Wodehouse’s stories and novels. In Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence”, the lavish home of Julius Beaufort plays a role in the intrigues and betrayals, although again I do not recall if it had a specific name aside from “the Beaufort house”.
    Like another commenter, I am also a great fan of Jeremy Brett and his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, so I also went to 221 Baker Street in London several years ago during a business trip, with a side trip to Scotland Yard. (I believe I was a Brit in a former life!!)
    A musical aside: I also liked The Moody Blues when the music first appeared and played some prehistoric 8-track tapes. I was not a teenager at the time and was more likely to listen to John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Chopin and Mozart; I disliked 99% of the music of that time except theirs, and still appreciate it.

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    • Thanks, Clairdelune! Glad you like the column, and that you could take a brief break from your work.

      Gatsby’s Long Island, N.Y., mansion is definitely iconic in literature! I can’t remember, either, if that house had a name.

      “The Castle”! I’ve read a lot of Kafka, but I think I missed that one. His stories, and the titles of those stories, are certainly weighted with plenty of meaning, angst, etc.

      So happy you mentioned Jeeves and Bertie Wooster! Some of the funniest writing ever in those P.G. Wodehouse works.

      Great that you visited Baker Street. Somehow I missed that in my one visit to London, but I did see Dickens’ house and some other author sites.

      The Moody Blues definitely had a different sound than many other bands in their 1960s/1970s heyday. More melodic, perhaps, and they even had a symphony orchestra on 1967’s “Days of Future Passed” album. John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Chopin, and Mozart — nice! I learned to appreciate music like that later, though I still tend to lean toward rock/pop music.

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    • Ah, disclosure documents and spooky houses, Cathy. My former house’s basement was haunted by puddles when it rained hard and long. ๐Ÿ™‚ (Something we of course disclosed.)

      The spookiest house I can remember personally encountering was inside a park almost directly across from my childhood home. Gray, rotting, abandoned — nirvana for elementary-school kids with vivid imaginations. If I’m remembering right, it eventually burned.

      Congratulations on your book!

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      • Dave and Cathy, I love spooky houses in books, read tons of early British mysteries by writers like Edgar Wallace and others in the same vein. Houses with secret panels, dark corridors, squeaky doors and ghosts and bloody histories… my young and imaginative self was in heaven. BTW, my basement DOES have something spooky living there, and not just the mice….
        As for real spooky houses, if you ever travel to Rome, Italy, go to the area near the Colosseum – there is a small hill with a cluster of still beautiful large homes, about 2,000 years old give or take a year (while my 25-year old house is decaying alarmingly!), that belonged to Roman senators and other important families – painted walls, mosaics, marble floors… and the spookiest feeling ever – I swear I felt the pressure of a thousand pairs of eyes staring at me, and the people with me felt it also. We all left with what the Hawaiians call “chicken skin”.

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        • Clairdelune, spooky houses in books can be really appealing in their scary way. (Better than being in them in real life!)

          Your basement sounds…interesting. Hope it’s not a major problem?

          I visited the amazing Rome once, but missed those ancient houses. They sound fascinating, lovely, and eerie, as you note. Great description of them!

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  9. How about the house of Atreus in Greek tragedy (Agamemnon, Electra, etc.), which refers to a dynasty and
    also a physical dwelling where all the offstage murders take place? I think there may be something original in the use of a private, personal space in the very public, religious theater space. Maybe this is the original of the novel?

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  10. Hi Dave, you can probably guess my first contribution to this post, “The House of Mirth,” although it doesn’t reference an actual house, at least I don’t think so. I did look up on Wikipedia where the title came from, and it’s from a verse in Ecclesiastes 7:4: “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Lily Bart spends her time in many great houses and even on a yacht, but I’ll always remember most the boarding-house room she tragically winds up in at the end. Another great book is “Howards End,” which is of course the name of an actual house, and I thought that the house they chose for the wonderful movie starring Emma Thompson was perfect. Another British novel referencing the name of a house, or castle in this case, is Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited.” I must say that I remember it more from the 1981 serialization of it than the book itself, which I read many years ago.

    Susan already mentioned Pemberley, but of course there are the other Jane Austen books, “Mansfield Park and “Northanger Abbey.” In “Persuasion,” would Anne Elliot ever have met up again with Captain Wentworth, if Sir Walter hadn’t been forced to let Kellynch Hall to Wentworth’s sister and brother-in-law? Then there is the odious wife of John Dashwood in “Sense & Sensibility,” who more or less forces Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters to leave their beloved Norland and have to settle in a small cottage on a relation’s estate — all because John Dashwood, his father’s son by a first marriage, inherits everything, then, after promising his father that he would take care of them does nothing for them.

    I’ll end this with my oft-mentioned “Where’d You Go Bernadette?” When she and her family move to Seattle, she can’t stand the proliferation of Craftsman houses, and instead buys an old brick building that was an once a Catholic school for wayward girls for them to live in.

    Btw, I’m also a big fan of The Moody Blues; I think I wore out my “Days of Future Past” album, listening to it every night in college as I was going to sleep. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • “The House of Mirth” cannot be mentioned enough, Kat Lib! I did think of including it my column but, as you allude to, it’s more a metaphorical than actual house. Still relevant to this discussion, though! And, yes, the last of Lily Bart’s residences was very, very sad.

      I didn’t realize that the “house of mirth” term originated in Ecclesiastes. So many titles of literary works are drawn from previous writings — as readers of Steinbeck, Maugham, Huxley, and other authors know.

      Thanks, also, for the mentions of works by E.M. Forster, Waugh, Austen, and Maria Semple. Great observations about the residences in each — including your terrific point about “Pesuasion.” The letting of that house was indeed absolutely crucial to the plot.

      I’ve had that wonderful “Days of Future Past” album since it came out in 1967, and it’s now rather warped. Luckily, one can hear all its songs on YouTube — including, of course, the classic “Nights in White Satin.” And in The Moody Blues’ second album, there was the song “House of Four Doors.” ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • Dave, I also wanted to respond to your comment below about The Carpenters. I agree with you that they were rather too saccharine, especially for those times (I was more into folk music, psychedelic or rock bands like The Doors). However, I’d say that Karen Carpenter has one of the greatest voices ever; it was such a tragedy that she succumbed at such a young age from anorexia nervosa. Fun fact — their recording of “We’ve Only Just Begun” was actually first used in an ad for a local bank. Richard heard it, got the bridge and additional music from the writers, recorded it, and it became a huge hit. These days it’s the opposite, you’ll be watching an ad and they will use a song by someone you loved in the past, and it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable.

        On another topic, Eric’s mention of animal-themed books, reminded me of my great love for Albert Payson Terhune in my very younger days. I loved all of his books about the collies of Sunnybank Farm, especially several books about Lad, as well as Bruce, Wolf, and Gray Dawn. My best friend and I decided that when we grew up, we’d live together on a farm and raise collies. Somehow, that never quite panned out. ๐Ÿ™‚

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        • Kat Lib, I totally agree about Karen Carpenter’s wonderful voice, and she wasn’t a bad drummer, either. I listened to a few Carpenters songs on YouTube a few months ago, and for whatever reason their material hadn’t aged well for me.

          Yes, The Carpenters were one of the “outliers” of popular music at that time — soft rock, clean-cut. But they both certainly wrestled with their demons (Karen’s devastating condition, as you mentioned, and her brother Richard’s drug use).

          Great anecdote about “We’ve Only Just Begun”! You’re right about that being 180 degrees from today’s song-to-ad transition, which also makes me uncomfortable. A few major artists have resisted that — including, I believe, Neil Young and the surviving members of The Doors. Speaking of ads, I think a couple members of The Seekers actually worked in advertising before they hit it big in 1964 or so.

          Albert Payson Terhune’s work is indeed superb. I have a ragged copy of “His Dog” (one of his lesser-known novels but very touching) that I’ve read four or five times.

          Well, we all have dreams as kids that don’t happen. But raising collies sounds kind of nice! Such smart, beautiful dogs. “His Dog” stars a collie, of course. (I imagine you’ve read it, so I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

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          • I think at least one of the writers on We’ve Only Just Begun If not all of them) was Paul Williams, who, among other appearances, starred in a strange rock movie musical The Phantom of the Paradise. The bank for which the jingle, later expanded, was written: Crocker Bank, if memory serves.

            Karen Carpenter voice had a marvelous lower range which seemed to insinuate itself intimately in the ear canal, before one could put up a defense against it. A wonderful gift. How it was employed– in my opinion: less than wonderful– though spectacularly successful, hits-wise.

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            • You’re right about Paul Williams, jhNY. He wrote a number of “easy listening” songs for The Carpenters and others — including (I’m citing the invaluable Wikipedia here) “Evergreen,” “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “An Old-Fashioned Love Song,” “Rainbow Connection,” etc. I didn’t know about his starring role in that musical you mentioned!

              Yes, Karen Carpenter had a great voice and sold a lot of records, but could have tried somewhat deeper material on a more frequent basis. Am I remembering right that we and some others recently discussed one album she did that was a bit more rough-edged?

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              • Dave, Karen did release an album produced by someone else, who I can’t remember, but I did buy it and wasn’t overly impressed. Richard said that the main problem with the album was that the producer had Karen sing in a higher register than what was natural for her. I’m not much for Christmas music anymore, but if I could have only one it would be the one Richard put out after she died, which is mostly songs she sung on their variety shows at Xmas, along with some choral music and some lovely piano arrangements by Richard.

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                • Thanks, Kat Lib, for confirming there was a somewhat different Karen Carpenter album. Sorry it wasn’t that great, and that the stupid producer made her sing in a way that wasn’t best for her voice.

                  The Carpenters definitely had the musical style to do Christmas songs well!

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                    • He remained convinced that it would have broadened her appeal, and would have boosted her career. Obviously, his was a minority opinion. And Karen, I think, was not in that minority, nor was her brother, nor, I’d have to assume, her label.

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                    • I guess a record producer has to be optimistic. ๐Ÿ™‚ Heck, sometimes singers and bands have rebooted their careers into different directions (The Bee Gees from soft rock to disco, Marvin Gaye from catchy pop to message music, Rod Stewart from rock to Tin Pan Alley, Alanis Morissette from lighter pop to harder-edged alternative rock, etc.).

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    • Whereโ€™d You Go Bernadette should be the official book for the city of Seattle because it perfectly zings us. We’re quick to get antsy, we love coffee, can be a tad bit high-strung, we love public transportation *holds up my ORCA card that I use for the bus and ferry*, and everybody knows somebody who knows someone who’s a big wig at Microsoft.

      LOL. It’s all in fun though…and somewhat true:)

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      • Ana, even though Maria Semple “zings” Seattle in a very humorous fashion, she still lives there, so she must do it in a very loving way. At least that’s the way I took it. Didn’t Bernadette and family end up living in a Craftsman style house in the end, or am I misremembering?

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        • She does, and the residents can only laugh because she’s telling the truth. I still crack up at the scene on the bus (bus was packed and everyone, including Bernadette’s seat mate had some type of electronic device in their hands).

          You are remembering correctly:) In Bernadette’s last letter to Bee, she mentioned they were moving into a Craftsman house.

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  11. Dave, a couple of my memorable ones were already mentioned, though not the house from “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie. Being out on an island in a very eccentrically decorated house really sets the tone for the novel.

    I also think the house or cellar in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Poe is a great location. The story couldn’t have worked without the type of house used and is very much a character in the story.

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    • Excellent, GL! That remote house in “And Then There Were None,” and the novel in general: so memorable. It’s my favorite Agatha Christie book (but I’ve only read about a half dozen of her many, many works).

      You’re right that the house and cellar in “The Cask of Amontillado” are absolutely crucial. What a spooky, macabre story — one of Poe’s best, and that’s saying something.

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    • GL, I just wrote a fairly long comment about how much Christie’s novels meant to me and how they influenced my love of mystery novels. However, Dave, as you well know, I’m trying to type on my tablet and just wiped it all out. Ugh!

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      • Kat Lib, sorry about that comment being wiped out. So frustrating!

        I just finished “The Light Between Oceans.” Almost unbearably sad, but an excellent, emotionally complex novel. Thanks for recommending it!

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        • Good, I’m so glad that you liked that book. I went to physical therapy this morning and one of the assistants greeted me with the announcement that she did read a book I had recommended (Paper Towns by John Green), and she didn’t like it! Well, she did admit it was a good book, but she didn’t like the ending. Which was a fair assessment, but I did think maybe I shouldn’t recommend books to anyone. And that is pretty silly, as I know we all have different tastes when it comes to everything, but especially books, movies, music and art.

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          • I hear you, Kat Lib. Recommending a novel can be a fraught thing; as you say, we all have different tastes, and one doesn’t know if the “recommendee” will like a book. Fortunately, I’ve always loved or at least liked the novels you and others here have suggested over the months and years. You all know and appreciate excellent literature. ๐Ÿ™‚

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            • Right, I was at B&N with my sister last week and when I picked up a book that I had liked, I yelled “No” and she was perplexed, until I explained why I didn’t think that was the best book for her to buy at that time. We’re somewhat alike, but very different.

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    • Thanks, Almost Iowa! What a nicely put, concise summary!

      I’ve read only one V. S. Naipaul novel — “Half a Life” — and thought it was good, not great. But I’m sure most of his other work, including “A House for Mr. Biswas,” is much better. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • If you find yourself wanting to try him again, consider reading “The Suffrage of Elvira”. The story uses a rural election to delve into the odd mixture of exotic cultures that is the Caribbean. V. S. Naipaul has much to say about multiculturalism. Most notably that it never works the way its advocates believe and works in ways its detractors believe it doesn’t.

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        • I just put “The Suffrage of Elvira” on my list, Almost Iowa, along with “A House for Mr. Biswas.” Thanks for the recommendations, and the interesting thoughts! I’m very interested in literature that says something about multiculturalism; among the other authors who do that well are Zadie Smith (in works such as “On Beauty”) and Jhumpa Lahiri (in works such as “The Namesake”).

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  12. Thanks for a great topic, Dave. And what a good person you are to read a non-fiction book about a topic that you have little interest in, just because a friend wrote it.

    So many beautiful homes to think of and remember. But if I didnโ€™t know any better, Iโ€™d think you left out some of the most memorable ones on purpose. The first three that immediately came to mind were Pemberley, Manderly, and Miss Havishamโ€™s house from Great Expectations (which is terrifically described in the previous comment). Many years ago I sat down to re-read an Anne Rice novel. It starts with an architect who has had a very near death experience, and is spending a lot of time alone with his very messed up brain. He talks about how beautiful the tragic house in Great Expectations is, and I thought, hey youโ€™re right, thatโ€™s a great book, I think I might read that instead!

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    • Thanks for your very kind words, Susan!

      Yes, I did leave out some major houses in literature, and I’m glad you fixed that! ๐Ÿ™‚ The three dwellings you mentioned are iconic, legendary, and a few other adjectives.

      Your last thought (on Anne Rice and “Great Expectations”) — so hilariously said! Ah, the push and pull of reading classic vs. “popular” fiction. I like both kinds of literature, as I know you do, too, but I’ve never tried Anne Rice’s work.

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      • I wouldn’t bother. Although Interview with the Vampire isn’t too bad, and it’s a fairly easy read. But I certainly went through a teenage phase of being swept up in that supernatural world. Actually, Rice also manages to create some beautiful homes in her novels.

        I’m also ashamed to admit that I went through a Flowers in the Attic phase when I was much younger. I read one or two when I was in my twenties, trying to remember what I’d loved about them when I was in school, but they’re just drivel. Virginia Andrews did however create Foxworth Hall which I would have given my right arm to live in. Even after growing up, and realizing that the books are trash, I can still remember the grandeur and elegance of that house.

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        • Thanks for your thoughts on Anne Rice’s work, Susan! I’m not “dying” to read her books — ๐Ÿ™‚ — but one never knows.

          We all have our reading phases! I’ve read many a book that, years later, I wonder why I spent time on. But experiencing some of those fictional houses does offer some compensation!

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          • I read four or five of the vampire Rice books, and wished, soon after I began, for the sake of her posterity, that success had not crowned her with so much confidence, or with so few editors. The more she sold, the more she wrote, as if she were being paid by the pound.

            In her first, Interview With the Vampire, she manages a very moving bit of writing on the topic of a young girl vampire’s death– and it turns out she had lost a child, and drew on her experience. There were scenes and pages throughout the books I read that were good. But never was that goodness sustained for the length of a book. Her gift, overall, was more conceptual than writerly. That is, what she meant to depict very often deserved better prose than she could bring to bear upon it.

            But to this week’s topic: Rice’s The Witching Hour features a family manse in New Orleans, haunted by damned relations who by means of old sorceries still exert themselves and their wills on the living and the dead-in-life. Her descriptions and lists of plantings around that house, as I recall, are a good one-stop repository of information on traditional New Orleans gardens.

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            • Thanks, jhNY, for your thoughts on Anne Rice’s vampire books. It’s a shame, from what you say, that her writing doesn’t always stay as good, as tight, and as disciplined as it can be. That certainly can happen to a best-selling author; I see that in some Stephen King novels, for instance, though overall I think he’s an excellent writer whose work is high-quality more often than not.

              Sounds like a fascinating New Orleans house in “The Witching Hour,” and it’s always nice when the specific conveys some general information (in that case, info on gardens in The Crescent City).

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            • Really well said, jhNY. I knew that I liked Anne Rice a lot more when I was younger, and just figured that I’d grown out of her, but now that you put it like that, I think there is way too much ‘confidence’ in her later novels. She incorporates a lot of Catholicism and Christianity into her work too, and while I’m not anti religion in literature, I think that success let her kind of overdose on putting in her own personal beliefs and morals.

              I did, however, stumble on a new Lestat book the other day. Something about the whole vampire world falling apart, and there’s only one vampire that can save the day. I think I want to read that one…

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            • Oh, and I meant to say that I completely agree with you about Rice’s descriptions of New Orleans. That ‘haunted’ house in particular, was very alive for me, but so were the churches, and cemeteries, and even just the streets that they walked down. I could smell and hear New Orleans for months after.

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              • Well said, Susan, as was jhNY’s comment.

                I may have to read “The Witching Hour” just for the New Orleans setting. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve been to that city four times, and it’s one of the most fascinating in the U.S. (Much of the wonderful quirkiness in John Kennedy Toole’s “A Confederacy of Dunces” can be attributed to it being set in New Orleans.)

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                • Perhaps this would be more appropriate as an e-mail. but, in my spontaneous reaction to this info re your interest in NO, I will reveal:

                  My wife’s latest fiction, which we will print up in the next couple of months, is set in NO, where she lived a while years ago. Her father’s family lived there for several generations as well. I hope, when I’m finally in possession of the printed versions (e-book will come after), that you’ll allow me to send you a copy.

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                  • Sure, jhNY — I’d love to see it! Thanks! Great setting, of course, and your wife obviously knows New Orleans.

                    I’ve been to NO once a decade — 1977, 198? (can’t remember the exact year), 1994, and 2004. That means I have five years to continue that streak. ๐Ÿ™‚ The ’77 trip involved taking a Greyhound bus from snowy, bitterly cold Chicago to warm, humid NO. Interminable ride, but it was nice to approach NO via ground transportation.

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                    • Thanks for your reply. When I have the books in hand, I’ll e-mail. I’ve got plans to include illustrations– for once, instead of having to persuade a third party, I am determined to see this thing come out exactly as we wish. I am anxious to NO myself, though I never have– I am a die-hard fan of the music from the early 20th century that high-tailed it out of there after Storeyville was shut, and have read a fair bit about the city in my role as editor, including The French Quarter, by Herbert Asbury (author of The Gangs of New York), and the WPA guide….

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                    • You’re very welcome!

                      jhNY, are you creating the illustrations yourself, or finding ones?

                      It’s nice to have as much control as possible over something like a book. I lacked some of that with my book, and it wasn’t pretty.

                      Yes, New Orleans’ music legacy is amazing!

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              • I don’t know if she’s still a resident, post-Katrina, but I know the city benefited from her presence and fiction, as she inspired many to visit that might not otherwise have done so.

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        • Don’t feel too bad about Flowers in the Attic. I too read that 1st book in the series, but had to abandon it once it got too squeamish and uncomfortable for me.

          For some reason though, V.C. Andrews and the Dollanganger series has a serious cult following.

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  13. Miss Havisham’s broken down,decrepit mansion with cobwebs galore in Dickens’ Great Expectations comes to mind,personification of creepy,grey gardens esque where this deluded wealthy spinster lived.

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    • Great addition to this discussion, Michele, and great description of that house! Your “Grey Gardens” comparison is an apt one.

      When characters lose hope and/or lose touch with reality, the house definitely suffers. Another example of that is the dwelling in Emile Zola’s “The Drinking Den” after the protagonist succumbs to alcoholism.

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  14. 221B Baker St. is one residence that immediately comes to mind! I think I read every one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about Sherlock Holmes, so I have visited there many times! I know that through time, my memories of what I have read have surely been blurred by what I have seen on the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series on PBS, which I adored.

    Another “abode” that I remember clearly is the one depicted in “The Dwelling Place” by Catherine Cookson. It was a contrived dwelling put together by a 16 year old girl and a kindly carpenter after she and all of her siblings were evicted from their cottage on the death of their parents. It reminds me much of a similar place we had here in our community back in the 20’s and 30’s. A family lived “under a rock” that had been boarded up to keep out the weather. I even have a picture that was taken there on somebody’s wedding day. I have been there, and it is really a shallow cave.

    Another titular dwelling is “A Painted House” by John Grisham which is one of the most offbeat Grisham books that I have ever read. You wouldn’t even think he wrote it.

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    • Great one, lulabelleharris! Sherlock Holmes’ residence and address are iconic. I like the way you said you have visited that residence. We certainly do “visit” places when we become engrossed in novels and stories. Also an interesting point about seeing a fictional place in our imagination vs. in screen adaptations of a literary work.

      That abode in “The Dwelling Place” is certainly very memorable in its very minimal way.

      I’m intrigued by your description of that John Grisham book! It’s not every author who can change his or her style to the point where it doesn’t seem like their writing. One example of that for me was when Willa Cather moved from a traditional-type novel (her “Alexander’s Bridge” debut) to her signature prairie-set novels (starting with “O Pioneers”!).

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      • You should add “A Painted House” to your list, Dave! It’s a fascinating book, although I didn’t like it nearly as much as “The Client”, “A Time to Kill”, “The Firm”, or some of his others. It is a REALLY different book for him. I also liked it because I could relate a little bit to the subject matter. It depicted cotton picking back in the day. I WAS a cotton picker, so I analyzed everything he wrote for accuracy. ๐Ÿ™‚

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        • Just added. ๐Ÿ™‚ “A Painted House” does sound very much worth reading. And it’s certainly a lure when a book depicts something a reader is very familiar with.

          Was John Grisham accurate about cotton picking? How long did you do that work yourself? How hard was it?

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          • I was amazed that his “pickers” made as much money as they did in the 50’s in Arkansas when we made about the same amount in the 60’s in Alabama.

            Cotton picking is backbreaking work! You pick as long as you can stand to pick by bending over and then you pick by kneeling until that hurts too much and then you get back up on your feet and try that for a while longer. Your shoulder gets sore from the strap of the cotton sack around it, so you tie the strap around your waist. A full sack of cotton weighs 50 to 70 pounds so you’re pulling that down the row. Then you have to pick up the sack, throw it over your shoulder and take it to be weighed at the wagon.

            Incredibly speaking, I finished gathering our last crop of cotton the year I graduated from high school. I started college in January. I knew for a fact that nobody could make a living picking cotton. I never picked more than 150 lbs in a day, and we got $3.00 per hundred pounds. ๐Ÿ™‚

            As hard as it is to believe considering what I have just described, I enjoyed picking cotton. We got out of school for cotton picking in the fall. By then, it wasn’t terribly hot. On good days, the wind was blowing, the sun was shining, I were outside, the cotton felt good in my hands and my mind could wander thousands of miles while I picked.

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            • That’s a very vivid description. Thanks! It does sound grueling — though, as you note in your last paragraph, good weather and an even better imagination can help a bit. Just three dollars for a hundred pounds — exploitation never seems to go away. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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              • I was born in NC, and lived there, in Chapel Hill and then Raleigh, till we moved to TN when I was eleven. I don’t think cotton was grown there.

                But as a boy of four, I was asked to go to the pile downstairs to get a scoop of coal for our stove. The pile was under the porch stairs. When I opened the door, there, as if it had grown up in place, was a cotton plant, dried, I discovered, but with its cotton and the seeds it surrounded still attached. The picture remains vivid and magic in my mind now, sixty years later,– dull black mound of coal, the drab flat green of the stalks, the impossible pure white of the cotton.

                One of my father’s friends had brought the plant back for me as a sort of souvenir of his visit home, and either he or my father contrived the surprise.

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    • Lulabelle, I’m a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, and I too loved the Jeremy Brett series. I don’t covet much of anything, but I definitely coveted that flat he lived in during that series (although I suppose it was just a set).

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      • Wasn’t that just a fantastic place? I was so saddened by the sudden loss of Jeremy Brett! He nailed Sherlock Holmes, as far as I’m concerned! I also loved Hercule Poirot’s digs in that PBS series!

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  15. Of course, there’s ‘Bleak House,’ which from what I recall of reading that novel, well over 30 years ago, is actually the home of kindly John Jarndyce, isn’t it, the generous guardian of Esther Summerson and her brother (forget his name)? Then there’s the much bleaker house in the novel by Charlotte’s sister, ‘Wuthering Heights.’ ‘Wuthering’ always reminded me of ‘withering’ and I recall a scene in which Heathcliff and Cathy go wandering over to the more brightly lit home of the Lintons, Thrushcross Grange’ and indulge in some youthful shenanigans resulting in Cathy’s dog bite and forced bedrest at the Lintons’. Then there are those massive plantations in ‘Gone With the Wind’, Tara and Twelve Oaks. As most of us know from our familiarity with the movie if not the novel, Scarlett feels quite proud and possessive over her legacy of Tara. Not only is it her birthplace and the site of her happiest family memories but, as the inheritor of it, it actually represents land ownershsip by a woman in that very restrictive male-dominated era. I’m probably misremembering details from all of these works but I’m just writing off the time of my head. But I’m sure you know where I’m coming from.

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    • Two more that occur to me. In Balzac’s ‘Pere Goriot’ he describes the environment and then the rooming house where Rastignac resides before introducing us to any of the characters. The other ‘Ras’ character inspired by Balzac and Rastignac, Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ lives in a tiny, claustrophobic closet of a dwelling. I think he described that it was very easy for him to reach from his bed to touch the wall and at one point when more visitors start crowding into that tiny place I was reminded of that old’ how many people can fit into a phone booth’ antic.

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    • bobess48, you mentioned three novels with majorly memorable homes/house references. Thanks! And I loved your transition from “Bleak” to “bleaker,” and the comparison of those two dwellings in “Wuthering Heights.”

      Near the start of Emily Bronte’s novel, Heathcliff’s house almost “speaks” in a way as guest Lockwood sees Catherine Earnshaw’s quarter-century-old writing carved into a window ledge.

      Also, great point about the rare female home/land ownership in “Gone With the Wind.”

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      • Two more terrific mentions, bobess48! And I hadn’t thought of that “Ras” connection between the Balzac and Dostoyevsky characters!

        Raskolnikov’s dwelling in “Crime and Punishment” is indeed claustrophobic. (Siberian imprisonment also seems welcome after that.) That dwelling certainly contributes to the claustrophobia and tension of that magnificent novel set in St. Petersburg.

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      • The Animals song! (I realize they didn’t write it but they certainly popularized it.)

        Thanks for the droll comment, Donny. Yup, we’re a family-friendly group. ๐Ÿ™‚

        I wonder what would happen if someone read “The Sun Also Rises” in “The House of the Rising Sun”?

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              • I hear you, lulabelleharris. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Hard to believe The Animals made their American debut more than 50 years ago.

                I’ve watched a couple of YouTube videos featuring Eric Burdon in recent years, and he certainly looks his age. Some rockers, of course, look better than others in their senior years. For instance, I think Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues still looks (and sounds) good.

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              • You’re not old; you’re just chronologically mature. I think it’s safe to say that about 75% of the music in my collection is by artists who first hit the scene 3-4 decades before I was born. Dusty Springfield is playing on the CD player right now as I get ready for work. Music of my generation is mostly nonsense. When I want to hear real music, lyrics, and instrumentation, I know which eras to listen to.

                As far as being a groupie, that is perfectly acceptable. I began my worship of Rush and have been a Geddy Lee Girl since before I started school. That obsession still goes on today. Rush is touring this summer, and me and the hubby plan on doing some serious partying at the concerts in Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland. Already got my concert outfits arranged.

                Just be sure you never lose your groupie card, Lulabelle. Don’t leave home (or enter a concert venue) without it.

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                • Great comment, Ana! Just to pop in here briefly — Dusty Springfield was indeed a terrific singer, and her still-living brother Tom Springfield was an excellent songwriter (including for The Seekers — “I’ll Never Find Another You,” etc.). A lot of talent in that family!

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                    • That was funny, Ana! Now you have me thinking about “Hurting Each Other” by The Carpenters — who I liked at the time but now feel were a bit, well, saccharine… ๐Ÿ™‚

                      Have a good day, too!

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                  • Can’t let you talk about The Carpenters, Dave. The Singles: 69 – 73, A Kind of Hush, and Now & Then are all on my ipod.

                    The Carpenters ruled. Speaking against them in my presence is a no-no. Now if you want to give a thumbs down to their awful tv show, then that’s ok. LOL.

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                    • Ha! Thanks for the engaging comment, Ana.

                      I still have some Carpenters on vinyl — an album and a couple of singles. I listened to them a LOT back in the day. So who am I to talk? It’s interesting how some music ages well for a listener and some doesn’t.

                      Perhaps I need to wait for a Monday that’s rainy, and try again… ๐Ÿ™‚

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                • Not two feet from where I sit I’ve got two Dusty Springfield test pressings of 45’s– that seem a bit auto-biographical, as titles go. One is titled “Lost” and the other, “Haunted.”

                  Isn’t The Look of Love just wonderful?

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    • Thanks, Bill! The title of that book (you had mixed feelings about) certainly fits this topic perfectly.

      I just read on Wikipedia that “The Shack” sold more than a million copies despite being self-published. Wow!

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      • Ana, I have about 50 pages to go, so I don’t know the ending yet. You have me intrigued! I can think of about three different scenarios. Will get back to you here when I finish (hopefully today). The novel is heartbreaking but excellent.

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        • Just finished the book, Ana. I thought it was a believable and effective ending. Very sad, but a note of grace and hope with the visit of the grown Grace/Lucy. I guess I was a little surprised that Grace/Lucy visited, but it was logical in a way since she still had some memories of her temporary “parents.” What did you think of the ending?

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          • Totally caught me off guard. I honestly expected Tom to grieve himself to death. Was not expecting Grace/Lucy to reappear, with the additional surprise of bringing her own son.

            I thought it was a nice gesture how she purposely left that chest full of keepsakes there so she could have a reason to return. True that Tom was not the biological grandfather of her little boy, but she still wanted him to be a part of his life regardless.

            One character that left me conflicted was Lucy’s birth mother. On the surface, Hannah deserved every once of compassion one could give (family turmoil, death of her husband, missing/presumed dead child). But the volatile confrontation she had with Isabel and Lucy at the department store, the way she manipulated Lucy into telling her about the secret visits to Isabel, the way she was dead-set on keeping Isabel out of Lucy’s life, and her attempt to coerce Isabel into implicating Tom by promising to return Lucy to her care were despicable actions and left a bad taste in my mouth.

            Her sister was more reasonable. She realised that for Hannah’s sake and Lucy’s sake, Isabel needed to be in the little girl’s life. To shut her out completely was beyond cruel. Hannah was more concerned with reasserting her title/role/authority as mother than she was on the mental and emotional state of her daughter.

            I understand and get what all Hannah went through, but she made it very difficult to show sympathy for her. And yes…this was a very good book. So hard to put down once you’ve started reading.

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            • Interesting insights and observations, Ana. Thanks!

              Tom grieving himself to death certainly could have been a potential outcome, but he was a stoic type who went through even worse tragedies during WWI. It’s possible Isabel grieved herself to death — her sadness could have left her more vulnerable to the cancer that killed her.

              VERY nice gesture to leave those keepsakes.

              Hannah was indeed not as sympathetic as one would like, though, as you note, she certainly had reason to feel bitter and act bitterly. I think it was one of the strengths of the novel that Hannah and Isabel were people one could both like and dislike. Hannah’s sister Gwen did seem to know how to handle things better, but, on an emotional level, she wasn’t as viscerally involved in the situation.

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              • “I think it was one of the strengths of the novel that Hannah and Isabel were people one could both like and dislike.”

                Good point, and I totally agree. I like books with characters that match real life, people who are not one-dimensional, and can be a tad bit complex. We all know people who have things that we like and don’t like about them. Same thing could be said about ourselves. I prefer some characters to match real life as close as possible.

                Another thing I liked about this book was the landscape and setting. I’m not too familiar with Australia, so I sort of followed along with my pocket atlas and a map of Oceania to identify certain areas/points of interest. I can’t believe that a hobby I started when I was 5 still continues to this day (but I like geography -always have- so what can I say).

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                • Very well said, Ana — I also like to see complex fictional characters, with good and bad attributes. More good than bad qualities can be nice, but “perfect” is not believable. (Of course, we need our literary villains, too. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

                  I also agree that it was nice to read a novel with a relatively unfamiliar setting. Luckily, the edition I borrowed from my local library has a map near the front.

                  Great that a hobby you began as a 5-year-old continues to this day. A keeper! Maps and geography are wonderful.

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