Angie's Reviews > The House of Stairs

The House of Stairs by Barbara Vine
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's review
Jun 29, 12

bookshelves: literary, psychological-suspense, england, favorites, books-about-books
Read in June, 2012

Out of print. This is my favorite Barbara Vine novel. Incredible structure, with a perfect amount of foreshadowing. Narrator's voice is pitch perfect throughout. This book is worth reading more than once, as I just have, taking advantage of the fact that it is now available in ebook format.

I have placed this book on my shelf of "books-about-books" because Rendell (here under her pseudonym) borrows her main story line, events that are recalled, from "The Wings of the Dove" by Henry James. In fact, the narrator admits she has caused events to unfold because she tells another character the plot of the classic.

The narrator begins her story seeming surprising sane despite the burdens she bears, but somewhere in the last chunk of the book her vision, as it were, narrows as we understand she is either becoming ill or is suffering from a mental breakdown. What's interesting is that we'll never know what does happen to her because the book ends on a ringing phone, which creates a deep-seated fear in the reader. Or at least it did the first time I read it. Now, I see that the author does let us know many times before the end what the real "end of the story" will be.
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