17 September 2012

The Little Stranger - Part the Second

This read-a-long brought to you by The Estella Society, which is awesome: 

Four hundred sixty-three pages later and I am... seriously underwhelmed.

First, let me say that I read through a lot of the first round RAL posts over at The Estella Society, and I think those people maybe read a different book than I did? Because their reviews were full of praises for the characterization and the creep factor and the slow build of the characters' interpersonal relationships, and (as you may be aware) my review was full of Whoopi Goldberg gifs and what-am-I-missing-guise?!?

For those of you new to this place - which is pretty much everyone since this blog is only a month and a half old - I promise you that I know A Lot about plot and watching slow characterization and that I can use all the Big Literary Words and once got 100% on a paper about how the City of London was a legit character in The Old Curiosity Shop. But let's face it: gifs are funnier, and everyone needs a niche.

SO. Let's talk about how this book is basically the literary equivalent of:

So I guess titular character was only ever after the family? Which is weird because they never really talked about it, or when they did someone got chucked into an asylum. And also un-scary because I didn't really care about the family much, and since I'm NOT the family, I'm safe. Safety is the antithesis of fear. And then Doctor Faraday convinced himself that he was in love with Caroline, which isn't really true because obvs. he wanted Hundreds - weird shit and all. And THEN Mrs. Ayres goes and hangs herself on a doorknob (?) because why not leave the woman with spontaneous body-stigmata all alone? Surely nothing could happen to her!

The Aunts KWIM.
And then Caroline calls off the wedding to Dr. Faraday because she never loved him after all, which I COULD HAVE TOLD HIM based on her behavior, and THEN she jumps/is pushed off of a balcony in her house and dies, too, because she thinks The Thing in the house is done with her family maybe, so getting up in the middle of the night is safe?  This is All So Sad, but from one event to the next, there's no sense that the next person should GTFO and move to sunny Spain and spend the rest of their lives tilting at windmills.

(My favorite metaphors are mixed ones.)

Herein lies my ISSUE with this book: I got no sense of looming danger, no sense of frenetic AGGHGHHHHHH for me-the-reader, no sense that the thing in the house is truly malicious or even really dangerous. The Doctor got more and more repugnant as he pushed and pushed his wedding to Caroline, and really in the end I felt like everyone deserved what they got, which (while allowing me to feel very smug) is probably not the way Waters intended me to feel. Witholding information from the reader can be extremely effective, but in this case there was too much witholding; not enough detail got through to incite fear or dread.

I will say, though, that I enjoyed the read-a-long itself very much, and am looking forward to more with The Estella Society!

4 of 11 Victorian speaking tubes, and a mandatory viewing of Arsenic and Old Lace for anyone who doesn't recognize the Aunts.

BONUS LIST OF Things that Do Suspense Better than This Book:

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland
My cat about to pounce on something
The doorbell when you don't know who's coming over