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!