The Other by Thomas Tryon

Idyllic 1930s Connecticut. 13-year-old Niles is dreaming the summer away with his twin brother Holland and their mystical Russian grandmother Ada–but tragedy has a way of striking this family, and it has something to do with the ring Niles holds so closely.

What a curious blend of classic Americana and gothic horror! It’s a tale of terror set in broad daylight, amid sunflowers and haymows and Main Street and the train, whistling at its appointed hour. There’s an angel in this book, with shades as dark as those found in Angels in America, and light as bright as the most glorious stained glass window.

The narrative voice in The Other is complex and tightly controlled, shifting seamlessly from an externally focalized first person narrative to an internally focalized third person narrative, and several points on the spectrum between. Very unusual, right? I never felt settled, never felt like I really had a grasp on what was happening, even though I guessed the “secret” very early on (I also have seen the first half of the movie version)–and it really worked, because when the final horror was revealed, I was shocked, I was horrified, I was devastated. The book is elusive, grand, and slippery, much like Shirley Jackson’s Hangsaman, which is possibly my favorite of hers.

This is not easy horror, quick gore, cheap thrills. The Others requires an investment, and is suitable for readers who want a challenge. Please comment if you’ve read it–I’m dying to talk about this one!

8 thoughts on “The Other by Thomas Tryon”

  1. I just ordered a copy, superfastreader, and I’d be happy to discuss it with you when I get a chance to read it. I was a little concerned, however, about your recommendation, because I tried to read, a couple of years ago, Harvest Home. I was a child when the television advertisements for this book gave me nightmares, so I really looked forward to reading it. But I just couldn’t get into the story. After maybe 50 pages I dropped it and went on to something else. Does it get better? Is The Other better?

  2. I haven’t read Harvest Home–The Others was my first Tryon.

    The Other is definitely a tough nut to crack, and it asks patience from the reader. But give it a chance & let it develop–it’s really worth it.

    Let me know what you think!

  3. I’ve never read anything by Thomas Tryon, but your review makes me want to try. I vaguely remember his novels being so popular when I was a child.

    I’m so happy you mentioned Hangsaman in your review. It’s not my favorite Jackson novel, but it’s a strong number two. Did you notice that when Tony (and) Natalie are lying on the bed reading that book, that the excerpt is from “A Man With A Maid”, by anonymous, Victorian porn? I nearly fell out of my own bed laughing.

  4. Harvest Home demands the reader to immerse himself in rural innocence while the author painstakingly builds up the background for his late onslought of choking gothic horror. The shock is all the more horrific because it is there in the midst of simple country life.

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