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Houdini Heart

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  5,680 ratings  ·  227 reviews
HOUDINI HEART harkens back to the masters of suspenseful supernatural horror: Poe, Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, but speaks with a wholly fresh voice. Once caught in its pages, there's no escaping Longfellow's terrible tale. Weeks ago, she was one of Hollywood's biggest writers, wed to one of its greatest stars. The doting mother of their golden child. But now? She's alone, ...more
Paperback, 254 pages
Published April 25th 2011 by Eio Books
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  5,680 ratings  ·  227 reviews

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Houdini Heart is the "Mulholland Drive" of books. Like Lynch's movie, it's this, it's that. It's not this, it's not that. People can discuss it, argue over it, think about it, read it again and again, but camps get created. Some might think it's a dream. Some a descent into madness. Some think she's trapped in a haunted house. Or hotel. Or town. For some, the creative process is set out in this woman's terrible tragic story. Perhaps it's about the destruction of the self to make art. Others have ...more
George Hastings
Couldn't resist reading an entirely different book by someone who has filled her work with such intense meaning and historical accuracy. What a surprise. Longfellow seems to be able to write anything. This one is nothing like The Secret Magdalene or Flow Down Like Silver: Hypatia of Alexandria. It sneaky and sly and up-to-date and strange and pure literature even though it goes down like oil. It's about a writer, a second-rate writer, whose life has come to such a pass (partly through her own do ...more
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is an intense novel of mainly psychological horror (no zombies, werewolves, vampires). At the same time, it is a tribute to a good deal of horror fiction and film that has preceded it. While telling its own story, it echoes precursors from Lovecraft to Shirley Jackson to Hitchcock to Stephen King, with more too numerous to list along the way. Although the narrator/protagonist is living in a huge five-story rooming house, once a grand hotel, the novel creates a sense of claustrophobic terror ...more
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Slyly captivating and insidiously disturbing. It's deceptively light conversational style (like the best of Stephen King) suckered me right in and before I knew it, pages flying by, I was deep into this masterfully written supernatural psychodrama, like M R James by way of Patricia Highsmith. A night-dark and utterly convincing depiction of a mind unravelling, leavened by genuine wit and compassion and made all the more compelling by a beautifully rendered central character who I couldn't help b ...more
May 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Holy beeswax. I've never come across a writer who can change her or his entire style and do it with such panache. This is one creepy book and it's so tricky. You go in feeling sane and come out not so sure what sanity really means anymore. This is the story of what one of the book's real-life characters calls "an ordinary person forced into an extraordinary situation." I was already a fan of Longfellow's. Can I be a devotee? ...more
Jun 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I more than enjoy Longfellow's historical novels, but this one really surprised me. I wound up not knowing my own knees from my elbows. I had no idea what to expect and that's what I got. A story told in first person as if the reader were that person, and you go along, gradually learning why you're in Vermont and why you're in River House and what you've done. But you're never prepared for what you're going to do next. You think you could never do these things, that you're not that kind of perso ...more
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't help but let the book speak for itself:

"Horror stories make some kind of sense. There's a monster of some sort. An infinite variety of monsters. In horror stories you either get eaten by the monster or you have to defeat the monster. Ghost stories have their own kind of sense. Something truly haunts a place. Or it haunts a person. A demon, the newly dead, a force, usually ill intended. But this story makes no sense at all."

It's very atmospheric, it goes as deep as you want it to, it can
Jun 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I think this is a horror masterpiece. That about sums it up.
Byron  'Giggsy' Paul
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all horror fans, all writers, pretty much everyone
Recommended to Byron 'Giggsy' by: Bruce Boston
Longfellow pays homage to and takes influence from Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Steven King, Hitchock, Houdini, and the Wendigo legend, but creates a distintly new and fresh modern psychological terror. The novel takes it shots at Hollywood and reveals the trials and tribulations of writers, and the horror that they suffer unto their own minds.

I also found many similarities to the popular and polarizing work of Danielewski's House of Leaves , although I'd guess unintentional. Those liking House
Katherine Preston
Just this minute put this book down on the table. I feel wobbly. I can hear the woman talking talking talking even now, commenting on her own interesting slide into insanity or into the black hole that is River House or into true sanity which is creative. I could have listened to her talk for much much longer. She made me cry and she horrified me and I understood her and I didn't understand her and what a fascinating woman. I think she has to be the best anti-hero I've ever found. And I don't kn ...more
Pamela Hornsby
Horror is not my thing at all, and although this is horror, it's also supernatural horror and I love the supernatural. Something about its first few sentences grabbed me (I've already loved Longfellow's other books, so different!) and I raced through it just a little slower than my heart. The insight into the writer's mind, the stories of real writers, all those deaths, the hotel, the haunted little town, the real world crisis, all went up to make it a page turner until the last page. I didn't w ...more
May 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Spellbinding. Mesmerizing. A work of unique brilliance. And so easy to read. So easy, it's like falling down Alice's Rabbit Hole. Whoops! And you're gone. But where are you when you get to the bottom? Houdini Heart. Houdini Heart. What a title when you know what the book is about. It's about an escape artist. A woman who escapes from feeling, and perhaps, even from life. I was trapped from the first few paragraphs. Highly recommended. ...more
I've just put this book down and feel compelled to say something about it. I've been so long in the mind and world of the heroine (who has no name which took me a long time to notice), I feel like I'm still there. I'm seeing my own world as she saw hers. Creepy. This is one of those books that once you begin, and have to put it down for any reason, it calls to you: read me, read me, come back and read me. So you do even if reading it gets a little weirder by the page. It starts out so easily, so ...more
Lee Thompson
Jan 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of intricate, well-written and sorrowful stories
Recommended to Lee by: Literary Horror (Goodreads group)
4.5 stars. Loved the symbolism, metaphors, vivid imagery and Ki has a very easy-to-read style. The sub-text in certain passages rattled me. And I enjoyed the mystery of it all--I think too many writers spell things out too soon or too easily and this story doesn't. Definitely quiet horror, which I find much more chilling than the over-the-top, in-your-face variety. Don't want to give away any spoilers, which would be easy to do since everything is connected. I suggest you just go purchase it. ...more
Keith Murray
Jan 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've started this so-called review five times now. A review is talking about the book, what's it about, how does it read, is it like this book or that book, is it a success or a failure? Did I enjoy it? I'm not good at all that. It's why I don't write about the books I read, the ones I don't like, or even the ones I love. But I wanted to say something about this particular book. A lot of people love it. A couple don't like it at all. Now that I've read it myself, I can see why it would be seen s ...more
With this book I am now officially a fan. A total about-change from The Secret Magdalene and Flow Down Like Silver: Hypatia of Alexandria, so much so, I am stunned. Houdini Heart is a deep swallow of slow acting poison. Wow. ...more
Stan Moody
Now here's a book. Controlled, playful, strange, knowing, written by a skilled, impeccable hand. It contains a heroine to die for, or with. I was with whoever she was from her first mutterings. There's a book within this book. It pretends to be bits and pieces of our anti-heroines best novel, but when you take it out, and lay it down all by itself, it's a short story. And here is the key or the "heart" of thing, I think. The Windigo's Daughter eats people like any self-respecting windigo would. ...more
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Oh the writing. I reveled in it. I became the woman, absorbed into her world as the protected" woman in The Yellow Wall-Paper became part of the walls of her cage/room. Jumping from true-sounding tales of horrid Hollywood to a haunted hotel in Vermont, always observing, always with something witty and acerbic to say. But true things, real things. So steeped in the creations of others she can't tell her own world from theirs. So steeped in guilt and sorrow, she is ready to die. If she's not alrea ...more
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
As I think Sondra said in the review of this book, every reader will understand this book in his own way.

I have just finished it and I am gobsmacked. Not only because of the book itself, but how it managed to creep under my skin, seep into my brain and affect my everyday life while I was reading it. Now I don't mean to sound dramatic or easily influenced, but I suppose it's part of each reader understanding the book based on their own experiences.

First of all, the writing is fantastic, it's so
Mario Angeles
Where did this come from? Just when you think you know a writer, they come from out of nowhere with a completely different book. I was electrified as I read it. We are completely inside this woman, with her every step of her way. We don't know what the world outside her head is really like, if her perceptions are accurate or deluded. All we can do is walk in her shoes, think her unusual thoughts, see what she sees or thinks she sees. This is NOT your usual horror. It's magically real with real h ...more
This is one of those rides that comes out of nowhere and slams you. It takes awhile, you're lulled in, and then whammo. I'd heard about the book one evening when some friends were discussing it. Arguing about it is more like it. After that, I had to see for myself so I borrowed a copy from them. I can't compare it to anything I've read before. Getting into this woman's mind was a dazzling trip. I wanted to be there and at the same time it was so disturbing to be there. This isn't one of those bo ...more
Nov 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lover's of dark fiction that makes you think
This was an amazing book. It was troubling, unsettling, interesting and thought provoking. It has been many years since I have read a book of this calibre that interwove so many story lines and thoughts. I will definately read this book again.
This was one of those books you say you can't put down, and really mean it. There's not a word in the wrong place, or a scene that isn't just right. I'll never forget it. As a writer myself, I recognize it in myself. It's a cry from the haunted heart. ...more
Racing through this right now. Be back for a review. But I can already tell what my rating is. Wow.

Update: finished not long after I started. The Wow stays. Someone here wrote that this is like the movie "Mulholland Drive." I couldn't agree more. I thought I knew what was happening, and then I didn't, and then I did. And then when I turned the last page, I did and I didn't. I love that. It means I can chew on all the levels, all the possibilities, all the tricks, and all the truths. This is horr
Kate Noyes
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I think I've never read anything like it. Written in first person directly to the reader, but not like a letter from abroad, more like a letter to herself describing in chatty witty detail all she sees and feels as she free falls into hell. But I'm not sure it's hell. Perhaps she has gone home where she belongs. Perhaps she has been completely taken over by the artistic process. Perhaps all of these things. She is a monster I grew to love. Like Grendel. One of my favorite books. Clever. Brillian ...more
Brigit Zelenak
Jun 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I can’t imagine anyone not liking this novel. Scratch that-- not loving this novel. But how to describe it? As an elegant version of Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ told from a female perspective? A love story to literary and cinematic horrors past, present and future? A taut psychological drama resplendent with dark humor and twisted storytelling? All these things? None?

One of my favorite reads of 2011 and without a doubt destined to join my ever-expanding list of favorites; it comes highly recomm
Matthew Hunter
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I had no idea what I was in for when I began this book. But Houdini Heart is extraordinary. The writing is exquisite, and I love the voice Longfellow created for this work. Despite the unreliable narrator and the confabulous events she relates, her voice remains piercingly honest. It is unforgettable. And despite her "heroines" precarious mental state and loss of equilibrium, the narrative is a perfect balance of terror interwoven with sly humor, without mitigating either. That’s a tough balanci ...more
Leonard Appleton
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was given to me as a present. Until I read the first few pages I wasn't sure why. It's very clear now. She knew once I began I wouldn't be able to stop. It's everything I love about books. Incredibly written by a writer with perfect pitch, a story that unravels before your eyes, layers and layers of meaning, telling little touches about a real writer's need to write, horror and magical realism woven together so closely it's like being lost in a maze. And our heroine is honest, funny, w ...more
Dec 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This stunning ride on a mind-bending journey through a talented writer's final days on the run, spent in a hotel that whispers of writers past, thrilled and unnerved me. I never could determine the dividing line between fantasy and reality in this often funny, always witty, sometimes heart-wrenching, and even gruesome story. This has it all, I could not put it down, and I loved the ending. ...more
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South Shore Readers: Discussion: Houdini Heart 3 39 Oct 24, 2014 05:14PM  
Bookworm Bitches : July 2013: Houdini Heart 13 111 Aug 04, 2013 07:40PM  

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Ki Longfellow, born on Staten Island, New York, to a French-Irish mother and an Iroquois father, grew up in Hawaii and Marin County, California, but ended up living in France and England for many years. She is the widow of a British national treasure, the complete artist Vivian Stanshall.

In England, she created and sailed the Thekla, a 180 foot Baltic Trader, to the port of Bristol where it became

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