The Fall of the House of Usher is one of the books from my classic club list and is also probably one of those books where most people are already more than familiar with the story.
The book is only a short story, probably about 50 pages and originally published in 1839 is considered to be one of Poe’s most famous works and a perfect example of his ability to make every sentence and reference meaningful.
The premise of the story is the failing line of the House of Usher. The whys and wherefores of this are never discussed but clearly the family seems to be doomed or cursed – or at least they believe themselves to be so!
At the start of the story the narrator is asked to visit his friend Roderick who believes himself to be terminally ill. Even though the two are best friends they haven’t seen each other for many years and so it comes as a surprise to the narrator to find Roderick in such a poor condition! It comes as an even greater surprise to find that he has a twin sister who herself seems to be suffering from a severe condition and in fact dies within days of the narrator’s arrival and is placed in a tomb in the cellars of the Usher Mansion.
I won’t go any further in terms of the plot as this is only a short story.
For me this was a reread, and on top of that I have also seen the Vincent Price movie and read a re-imagining of the story called The Fall by Bethany Griffin. I think having read this in what I like to consider my ‘romantic’ years – in that I now romanticise all of those books and love them unconditionally – it was good to go back and check this out to see how I feel about it now.
I would probably say that whilst I don’t find this as creepy as I did on my first read, and I also don’t imagine many horror readers in this age will find it scary, it still has a fantastically gothic feel. The tone of the writing, which no doubt appears flowery and excessive compared to modern books, is actually a style that I love to revisit. I can read a book like this with almost a voice over running inside my head as though I’m being told the tale (like one of those old movies that starts off with a voice over – there’s just something so story time about it!). It’s just so wonderfully old fashioned and ornate and yet at the same time, being a short novel, incredibly meaningful in what it manages to pack into such a limited space.
A macabre tale, peopled with fragile minds, heightened psychosis and fuelled by massive hypochondria set in a bleak environment in a dark and dilapidated mansion that adds fuel to an already overburdened mind. Were the Ushers under a curse, is the house sentient or is the mind a powerful instrument that can indeed lead to self fulfilling prophecies of doom.
This is, as I said, only a short story. The words need to be savoured and it is in no way a slasher type of story. The horror in this story comes from the mind and the tortures it can create – or does it?
What this has definitely succeeded in doing is making me want to revisit some more of Poe’s work which I will definitely do in the future as I’d like to compare the feelings I now have for the stories.
As part of the Classics Club
‘Women’s Classic Literature Event 2016’
The question for the month of April is:
‘Share an interesting fact about the life of the author you’re currently reading for this event.’
My next read for the Club is going to be And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I haven’t started yet but I’ve just picked up a copy and so decided to make Agatha Christie the author of choice for this month’s question.
Now, I could just put a bunch of facts down now that I’ve read up about Agatha being home schooled or that she wrote her first books as a challenge from her sister Madge but what I found most intriguing, particularly given her style of books which have proved so very popular over the years, is the fact that she went missing herself! Life imitating art imitating life!?!?
On the 3rd December 1926 Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days sparking a major manhunt involving police, volunteers and even aeroplanes!
Her car was found fairly quickly by the police and didn’t seem to have any signs of foul play and yet at the same time held no clues as to Agatha’s strange disappearance!
Agatha’s husband was suspected of foul play. Arthur Conan Doyle tried to find Agatha using a medium and Dorothy Sayers visited the spot where her car was found to search for clues!
Finally, after 11 days of searching Agatha was found. Located in a hotel in Harrogate. To this day nobody has ever solved this mystery. It is believed that Agatha’s husband was having an affair and she did in fact divorce him later on. It is also suggested that she may have been in some form of car accident and suffered amnesia. Another theory is that she was in a ‘fugue’ state – brought on by depression.
Basically, it’s a mystery and perhaps only one that Miss Marple or Poirot himself can solve! Was it all a very elaborate publicity stunt?? Who knows but it really does go to show that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction!
What really happened people. Foul play or just a hoax??
Well, I was about to say a couple of years ago but that would have been a fib so I’ll come clean, three years ago I joined in with the Classics Club. This is a great site that encourages you to pick up some old favourites and share with others. I used to read a lot of classics but this was mainly because I read what was available around me and those being my dad’s books the majority were classics.
Obviously I moved on from there to my own books and tastes but I still like to include the odd classic into my reading These days my tastes run more to speculative fiction with a little murder/mystery/horror/historical thrown into the mix for good measure. Truthfully, I’m not doing as well as I’d hoped so I’ve decided to revise my list and I’m looking for some suggestions. I’m not going to try and go through all the classic books I’ve read because it would be silly! But, for example, I recently read The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde – which was great. I would definitely like to read more along those lines. I like books with a magical fairytale feel and also was thinking of Agatha Christie or other similar murder/mystery books – also, anything a little bit creepy would be good. If you have any suggestions please let me know. Obviously any fantasy classics that you can think of feel free to chuck in here too.
The Classics Club recently posted The Classics Club 50 Questions Survey. I’ve cheated a little bit on this in that I’ve chosen 10 of the questions only and on one of the questions I’ve changed the wording slightly – still, I don’t suppose I’m going to be arrested for cheating a little!
- First classic you ever read? One of the earliest reads I can remember independently choosing myself and reading was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum – I think I was about 8 years of age at the time. I’m fairly certain I also read The Borrower in the same year. Both books were recommended by my teacher at the time.
- Which classic do you think EVERYONE should read? Why. Woah, what a tough question. So many to choose from. But, I think i would probably go with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dicken. It’s a short story of redemption really with a feel good ending that has been popular since its creation.
- Favorite movie adaption of a classic? Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. All three films are just excellent. Jackson did an excellent job of recreating middle earth and the films were fairly faithful to the books.
- If a sudden announcement was made that 500 more pages had been discovered after the original “THE END” on a classic title you read and loved, which title would you most want to keep reading? Or, would you avoid the augmented manuscript in favor of the original? Why? I think I could continue Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. Everybody could do with a little more Rhett Butler in the lives – and if you don’t agree, well, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!
- Whose advice do you always take when it comes to literature. (Recommends the right editions, suggests great titles, etc.) Well, I have a bunch of people that I rely on for recommendations but if I’m going to look for fairly early influences the first would be my dad, who is also a big reader and has massively influenced my reading over the years. I basically read more or less everything on his shelves ranging from detectives and mysteries to fantasy. The second biggest influence was a colleague at work who by dint of bringing me a constant supply of her favourite books introduced me to so many new authors and broadened my horizons.
- Classic author you’ve read the most works by? Jane Austen – well, I’ve read all her books. I’m not sure if I’ve read the most books by her or not but she’s the author that immediately springs to mind.
- List five fellow bloggers whose blogs you frequent. What makes you love their blogs? I’ve cheated here on two counts – one, the bloggers I’ve listed are not all fellow classics club followers and two I’ve put too many down – I basically got carried away! Jessica over at The Bookworm Chronicles – we’ve been following each other virtually since I started blogging. She has a great blog and I love her books choices. Stainless Steel Droppings, ditto the above about the length of time I’ve been following this blog. SSD is Carl’s blog and primarily focuses on SFF – I love this blog and genuinely think I’ve had only one book where we’ve had slightly differing feelings in terms of liking it or not. I would pretty much read a shopping list if Carl recommended it! Andrea, over at the Little Red Reviewer – I think Andrea was one of the first people to actually comment on my posts – which was something of a revelation to me at the time as it never even occurred to me that anybody would even read my reviews. I love this blog – Andrea is always at the forefront of book recommendations, always one of the first to bring me new ideas and I read her blog religiously!! Wondrous Reads – Jenny is one of my best book buddies. This is helped by the fact that we also attend book events and movies together! We originally made friends through a love of reading and have continued ever since. Wondrous Reads is a fantastic blog and probably one of the earliest blogs to boot. If it wasn’t for Jenny I would have missed some amazing books – immediately springing to mind The Rebel Angels, The Martian, The Girl with All the Gifts and I am Legend! Finally – I’m going to be sneaky and add two blogs – basically because I found them both at the same time – Dark Cargo and Dab of Darkness. Dark Cargo – I would say this is a very quirky SFF blog and I never miss a post if I can help it. Dab of Darkness is Susan’s blog – tons of reading goes on over here and I’ve taken part in so many lovely readalongs with Susan that have introduced me to a host of other like minded bloggers. I would love to add many more here – Jason at Genkinahito, Lisa at OvertheEffingRainbow, but, no, I’m going to stop there!!
- If you’ve ever participated in a readalong on a classic, tell about the experience? If you’ve participated in more than one, what’s the very best experience? the best title you’ve completed? a fond memory? a good friend made? Lord of the Rings – a readalong hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings. This was a great read along that I really enjoyed. I always wanted to reread LotR but probably never would have done so without the impetus this readalong gave me. I loved sharing the experience with so many other people.
- Favorite thing about being a member of the Classics Club? I like the diversity of the events and I also like that it’s given me a personal challenge that encourages me to pick up books that otherwise I probably wouldn’t pick up.
- If you could appeal for a readalong with others for any classic title, which title would you name? Why? That would probably be Les Miserables. Why – because it’s on my list and I find it totally daunting. I think if I took part in a readalong it would give me more encouragement to read this plus readalongs are usually a bit more gentle affairs, spread out with allocated reading time so that you can read other books at the same time.
Okay, this month’s meme is:
‘We want you to mingle. Go to our member list and select a fellow classic clubbers you’d like to feature on your blog. This can be someone who is active within the Classics Club, someone quiet who inspires with his/her posts, someone new to the club or scarce whom you’d like the club to meet. S/he can be a friend of yours, or someone you’ve never met. Tell readers why you value this club member. Highlight at least one post from his/her blog.’
And, I’m going to cheat but only a teeny little bit and in a totally nice way of course – and everyone knows that rules are made for breaking. Basically I’m going to nominate more than one blogger!
First, Jessica at the Bookworm Chronicles – whose blog I’ve been reading for a very long time and who I consider to be a great blogging friend. She’s a really genuinely lovely person. Always incredibly thoughtful to anyone who comments and always replies. Her reading is diverse. She reads classics, historical fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Check out the Bookworm here.
And, second, another blogging friend who I chat with all the time. TBM from 50 Year Project. This is a great blog. Photography, book reviews, film reviews, pub reviews – not to mention a book already out there and another one in the offing. I think that deserves a high five. (Not to mention have you got one of those little twisty clocks on a necklace that allows you to turn back time – how on earth do you fit it all in)
That’s it for me folks.
Actually, one more person, this is a very new person to the Classics Club – Keri from Keri Blakinger’s IV League – her book list is here. This is a new-to-me blog so it deserves a bit of a shout out too I think.