Charlotte Reads Classics

Slowly, slowly, she sipped a sentence.

Category: Science Fiction

Genuinely Terrified!

The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

I read this for the most part in broad daylight and I was still really really scared. I’ve never read any Shirley Jackson before, but now I’m anxious to get my hands on more. Firstly, whoever chose this image for the book cover deserves a medal because it completely captures the eerie dappled light and drabness, not to mention the topsy turvy-ness and ominous feeling someone is watching you. Is it the house? Is it something inside? Secondly, it has the best opening lines I’ve read in ages.

I think the book is so scary because Jackson really captures how it feels to be absolutely terrified. The way she writes when something supernatural is happening creates a perfect sense of urgency as the unknown draws ever closer. And afterwards, in the morning, there is a lot of rationalising and nervously making light of it all that further confirms just how scared you were. If I were to re-read this, I’d take a closer look at all the characters again, because there is so much going on psychologically.

Shirley Jackson, you terrified me and I loved it.

Neverwhere

Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman

“Mind the Gap” … Much bleaker than Stardust, this futuristic / apocalyptic / yet still somehow set in the past other world is inhabited by all the lost people who have fallen through gaps and ended up underneath London. Not in the real world, but not dead either, Neverwhere follows a band of misfits on a mission. I’d be just as excited about this book as I was about Stardust if I’d liked any of the characters, but the mythology and various creatures that turned up were just as intriguing.

Neil Gaiman has a very distinctive style which manages to make you feel nostalgic and like an intrepid explorer of the unknown, all at the same time.

Stardust

Stardust, Neil Gaiman

There is nothing I love more than the rare pleasure of finding a new author. Yes, I read a lot of books that I think are brilliant, but collecting authors is much trickier. Neil Gaiman, welcome to my collection! He reminds me of Ray Bradbury in his eloquence and his distant-but-not-so-far-away worlds. Stardust is set shortly before the Victorian era, in a little country town called Wall. But in addition to the ‘real world’ there is another realm of spirits and storms and witches and magic… not the scatterbrained kind, but an earthy, old worldly way: think folklore and mystics rather than fairies. In the town of Wall, Tristran Thorn promises to bring back a fallen star for his true love, and strays into this other world to get it.

I couldn’t read this quick enough, and I can’t stop smiling when I think about it. Immediately after finishing, I bought another of his books- Neverwhere– which, very unusually for me, I started straight away. A total convert!

Under The Dome

Under The Dome, Stephen King

I confess, I was yet again suckered in by clever marketing of book covers. Which you can enjoy here. My my, how have I gone so long without ever reading a Stephen King novel? Absolutely fantastic! So readable, despite being quite a beast of a book, it reads quickly and easily. There is a huge cast of characters though, so the book needs to be long so you can really get into who is who. In a nutshell (slight pun intended), Under The Dome is about a small town in America which all of a sudden becomes trapped under (can you guess?) a giant, impenetrable dome. Aliens? Government conspiracy? All I will say is that I started thinking one, and then really hoped it was the other. But really, Under The Dome is as much about the psychology of people in tense situations as it is about action.

Reading this, I was reminded of the film The Village. But this is loads better. I’d recommend it, even if you aren’t generally a reader of science fiction. Stephen King, I happily join your legions of devotees. What a ride!

Tea-Time

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, Douglas Adams

What more is there to say other than Douglas Adams is the funniest, the cleverest and the most quintessentially English writer ever. I love his books. I love his writing. He is utterly brilliant. His books are my childhood.