Friday, March 4, 2011

The House Next Door / by Anne Rivers Siddons

Georgia native Anne Rivers Siddons has lived a distinctly "Southern" life. Born in 1936, she was raised in the shadow of the old South where culture and tradition often clashed with
the changing social landscape. Attending Auburn in the mid-1960's, she was active in her sorority and as a journalist where her prowess as a writer was first recognized when censorship issues arose over several of her student newspaper articles. Though perhaps most known today for her more contemporary domestic novels like Low Country, Islands, Sweetwater Creek & Off Season, Siddons earlier work has included horror fiction like her 1978 book The House Next Door, a thrilling ghost story of the truest order.


"People like us don't appear in People magazine."

Walter and Colquitt Kennedy are classic yuppies. In an upscale suburb of Atlanta, they live comfortable, purposely childless lives comprised of fulfilling professional careers and relaxing, indulgent weekends. A bit of a disappointment has come their way lately though: the vacant lot next door, which the Kennedys had always hoped would remain as such, is bought up and construction has already begun on a new home. The house, designed by up-and-coming architect Kim Dougherty, is, upon completion, one of the most extravagant homes in the city and soon attracts a buyer in the form of Anne and Woody Harralson. But things are uneasy right from the start when the young couple moves in, their housewarming party going totally wrong. Then, as time passes, things begin to get really spooky--and even deadly.

Siddons is a good writer, confident and easy to become engaged with. Her characters may be archetypes and her setting is definitely nothing too original, but her storyline develops in a truly unique way, the drama building right up until the very end. Having the protagonist be an indirect witness to the legitimately mortifying circumstances is something that works, the personage of Colquitt becoming more distraught in each segment--each new family to move in to the house--all the way up until the final act. Also, it's the manner in which the author evokes the gothic from the most unlikely surroundings. Though there's a sort of generic conventionality to both the home itself and the youthful vigor of the characters, the novel manages to carefully delve deeper into the layers of suburban ennui and expose the darker depths of the setting which are certainly present even in spite of any supernatural occurrences. The reader begins to feel, with decided unease, that it may not be just 'the house next door' which is haunted, but the very culture, the atmosphere and backdrop from which it's originated. (FIC SIDDONS)

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