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The House Next Door - Anne Rivers Siddons This was not really what I was expecting, but I liked it quite a lot. I was expecting something along the lines of a traditional ghost story, but, instead, I got something similar to Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House... but better, in my opinion. The two books share quite a bit of ambiguity, in that we're never truly sure if there is something going on, or if it's all just in their heads, but I felt like this story just worked a bit better for me.

Almost from the start, I was kind of drawn into this book. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it. Well, thinking about the house, anyway. I really liked the slow build-up of tension, the slow escalation of the situation to a breaking point. I liked the surrounding normality - the breaks in the narrative when Colquitt talks about going to the grocery store, or meeting with friends, or taking a trip. These things were described with a detail that really allows the reader to see the scene, so when the next house related issue is brought to light, it seems all the more troublesome.

I loved the writing for that. The descriptions were perfect at walking that line right between showing the reader everything and allowing the reader to fill in some of the blanks on their own. We have a description of the house as being modern and beautiful, two stories at least, with a basement, a wall of windows in the back... but otherwise, we can imagine it for ourselves.

Part of what I loved about the description of the house is how it seems so light, so bright and inviting. I kept seeing the house in an anthropomorphic way, at times with an innocent expression, and then others a kind of sly calculation and spitefulness.

I know that a lot of this feeling is due to the story being related by Colquitt Kennedy. She seems so sure of herself, so sane and reassuring and honest - but her reliability is definitely in question. She hated the thought of the house from the very start. She wanted her lot, her privacy, her green-lit bathroom... and then when she sees the plans, she supposedly falls a little in love with the house, or at least stops hating it as much. (This can kind of be believed, given the epilogue.) But who's to say that she wasn't truly crazy as a shit-house rat and creating all of this in her head to justify the awful things that she did to sabotage those living in the house she never wanted to be there in the first place?

Colquitt may be a clever liar, even lying to herself, or maybe not all there. Walter, her husband, seems to be so in tune with her that it wouldn't be all that hard to get him on board, as indeed it wasn't. Or maybe it was Walter who was the doting husband and caretaker - a model for Buck, perhaps?

OK... I don't really believe that's the case - well, not ENTIRELY - I'm just making a point that events may not necessarily be as Colquitt relates them. There could be a rational explanation for the things that happened there.

I did a quick search online to see if I could find info on the name Colquitt, because it's unusual. I found this description of the type of person who bears that name. It's probably complete bunk, but parts of it fit this Colquitt to a T:
COLQUITT: You can be a writer, painter, musician, promoter, great salesperson, a lover of beauty, socially in demand, and sometimes extravagant spender. Your energy might be scattered, but you have the ability to bring an idea to completion. You might be psychic, but not know it.
You desire to inspire and lead, to control other's affairs. You are giving, courageous and bold, action oriented, energetic and strong willed. You want to make a difference in the world, and this attitude often attracts you to cultural interests, politics, social issues, and the cultivation of your creative talents.
Anyway, regardless - the story was unsettling either way. And I liked it for that.

The end was a nice twist, one that I wish was just a bit better explained, honestly. So much detail went into some of the more mundane aspects of the story, and then the end was just glossed over. (I'll admit though, that rushed quality does help my Crazy Colquitt theory!)

If I have any complaints about this one, it would be the dialogue at some points. It sometimes read like one of those therapy exercises where you have to verbalize your feelings and reactions: "When you do ____, it makes me feel _____." It was just a little bit stilted and awkward, and I don't think that people really talk like that. Even well-to-do upper middle classers.

I did enjoy this book quite a lot though, and I think it's one that I'll read again at some point. I feel like there are things that I'd understand better a second time around.