Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Sundial

   Something about the late fall and early winter puts me in the mood to read a good eerie, Gothic story. Around the same time of the year last year, I read Shirley Jackson's novel 'Hangsaman.' Since Shirley Jackson is always a dependable choice when one is in a mood for a interesting and unsettling yarn, I decided to follow suit this year. While at the library, rummaging thorough books, I found Jackson's novel 'The Sundial.' 

     A repeating theme in Jackson's books are creepy houses. The Haunting at Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle both feature creepy houses that act almost as another character. The creepy house in The Sundial is another example of Jackson's houses. This house is both lavish and creepy, and also full of lavish and creepy people. The story is about Aunt Fanny, who, while at the sundial in the middle of a shrub maze, meets her dead father who tells her of a coming apocalypse. Her father claims that the only safe place to be during the end times is in the house. Aunt Fanny convinces the rest of the people in the house of the visions validity, and together the family and their few followers prepare for the end of the world.
   This story, like most of Jackson's, is unsettling particularly because the reader is always on edge, not sure if Aunt Fanny is experiencing visions from madness or truly from an otherworldly source. But it is not just the suggestions of the world ending or the uncertainty of Aunt Fanny's sanity that is unsettling. It is the way the people respond to the news. Aunt Fanny's believers seem more excited for the new world that will exist after the apocalypse, rather than despairing at all the life that will be lost.
  One thing that was different about this novel compared to some of Jackson's others that I have read, is that 'The Sundial' was a lot funnier than her other books. There is both a playfulness and satirical humor that runs thorough the novel. My favorite funny part of the book is when Aunt Fanny's believers encounter another group who also believe the world is coming to the end.
  My favorite Jackson novel is still 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' but it was wonderful visiting her writing and the worlds she creates in 'The Sundial.' It is an entertaining, dark and funny book well worth the read.

   Speaking of eerie, the sky was looking quite eerie earlier today. But also, very beautiful!

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