Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Sundial” as Want to Read:
The Sundial
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Sundial

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,946 ratings  ·  406 reviews
Aunt Fanny knows when the world will end....

Aunt Fanny has always been somewhat peculiar. No one is surprised that while the Halloran clan gathers at the crumbling old mansion for a funeral she wanders off to the secret garden. But when she reports the vision she had there, the family is engulfed in fear, violence, and madness. For Aunt Fanny's long-dead father has given h
Paperback, 222 pages
Published March 27th 2014 by Penguin Classics (first published 1958)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Sundial, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Robin Bonne Disappointing. I hope Penguin re-releases this cover with a relevant introduction by someone with a connection to Jackson, either personal or through …moreDisappointing. I hope Penguin re-releases this cover with a relevant introduction by someone with a connection to Jackson, either personal or through their style of writing.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,946 ratings  ·  406 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Sundial
In Stephen King's novel 11/22/63 a man named Jake Epping finds a portal that allows him to travel to 1958.

To be specific. . . it transports him to September 9, 1958 @ 11:58am.

And, no matter how many times Jake goes into the portal and emerges back into the present day, it is always 1958 when he returns.

Once Jake commits to entering into the portal for good, he adjusts to life in 1958 and prefers it. He can't quite get over how much better the food tastes, how much more polite children are to
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like a sort of compassionate Oscar Wilde, this romp among the tombstones & all types of Gothic macabre can be experienced like a full-out play. There is an impressive group of characters--eh, automatons--and enough lines of dialogue to tickle anyone's fancy. This is the third Jackson novel I've delved into; the third novel deserving a 5-star rating. Jackson is the quintessential lost-and-found writer, the fountainhead of so much of the stuff the genre has to offer. In short, an indispensable aut ...more
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic
This book is such a wicked pleasure. I give it four stars only to distinguish it from We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House, which are really the pinnacle of Shirley Jackson's art. But the elements are all here, in The Sundial: the old house, the sense of decay and doom, family legends, oddball characters, the blurring of reality and magic, and a comedy of manners so black and biting that it makes you wince with pleasure and pain. The novel opens with a family returni ...more
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: gothic paranoids

Shirley Jackson is a wonderfully weird sister, a witchy woman with wicked powers and wry sense of humour.

The Sundial, a lesser known precursor to The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, is a nasty indulgence well worth reading. It features many characters, none of them particularly sympathetic, who find themselves in the Halloran Mansion, and who are convinced the end of the world is imminent. Believing they will be safe if they stay in th
this is among my favourite novels. every time i read it i am just as struck by its harmonious discord as i was the first time. this story is, to me, a perversely uneven amalgam of apocalypse, drawing room comedy, and creepy, gothic haunted-house tale. i think i only like the book more for the fact that the pieces don't quite fit together, and the scene that scares me the most isn't the one i'd expect; though there are several claustrophobic and uncomfortable moments in the sundial, and i always ...more
Nandakishore Varma
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shirley Jackson writes seriously weird fiction. I used to think of her as a horror writer, after reading The Lottery and reading about The Haunting of Hill House umpteen number of times (I have still not been able to lay my hands on the book). However, We Have Always Lived in the Castle convinced me that her literary talents were much above that of the run-of-the-mill horror writer: the book under discussion has strengthened that belief. Shirley Jackson is a genius of the level of Franz Kafka - ...more
Anna Luce
★★★★✰ 4 stars

“I mean, why should I figure I’m so special, the world is going to end while I’m around?”

In The Sundial, perhaps Shirley Jackson’s most comical novel, twelve rather disagreeable individuals are cooped together in a mansion waiting for the end of the world.

“The house would be guarded during the night of destruction and at its end they would emerge safe and pure. They were charged with the future of humanity; when they came forth from the house it would be into a world clean and sile
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Collected in Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings is a lecture titled “About the End of the World.” In it Jackson explains how she came to write this novel. Casting around for a topic, she reread her earlier (pre-1958) novels and discovered they all included a wall surrounding some forbidden, lovely secret, and in this wall a gate that cannot be passed. She also realized she never got past the gate and inside the wall, so decided to start writing from inside the wall: The res ...more
Dec 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The sight of one's own heart is degrading; people are not meant to look inward—that's why they've been given bodies, to hide their souls.”

3.5 stars. While the charmingly odd dialogue and eerie atmosphere were quite a bit more intriguing than the actual plot, you can never go too far wrong with Shirley Jackson!
Krok Zero
Mar 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spring-2010
Shirley Jackson was such a kooky genius. Emphasis on genius. Also, emphasis on kooky.

I'm learning that there is a whole world of Shirleyana beyond that one story which shall remain nameless because everyone read it in high school.

The premise of this one is simple but also highly bizarre. A wealthy family, plus assorted hangers-on, waits around in a big old house for what they believe to be the imminent apocalypse. Most of the family members are pretty awful in one way or another, and they mostl
Roman Clodia
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"... but when I think about it this new world is going to have Aunt Fanny and my grandmother and you and Essex and the rest of these crazy people and my mother and what makes anyone think you're going to be more happy or peaceful just because you're the only ones left?"

The thing about the blurb for this is that it doesn't mention just how funny this book is. Not pleasantly funny, though there's something close to drawing room comedy here; it's wicked, possibly misanthropic, sardonic, cruel h
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is going to be tricky, even the star rating was difficult.
This is an extremely character driven book with no plot to speak of. I didn't like or care for any of them and there are lots.
The gothic setting and 'story' should have been right up my street but we just didn't gel.
I've decided to dnf this one at over 150 pages which is rubbish I know, but if I keep on not being involved it will send me into a reading slump which I really don't want.
Not all books are going to be winners for all rea
E. G.
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Foreword, by Victor LaValle

--The Sundial
Jeff Jackson
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-2
Aunt Shirley's "The Sundial" is not in the same class as later masterworks such as "The Haunting of Hill House" and especially the perfect "We Have Always Lived in the Castle," but it still takes the prize for the bitchiest apocalyptic novel. There's a good dose of Oscar Wilde and Evelyn Waugh in the scathingly funny dialogue, with some supernatural "Wicker Man" antics thrown in for good measure. The ending is nothing short of sublime and lifts the entire novel, forcing you to re-evaluate your v ...more
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1958, this novel was followed by, “The Haunting of Hill House,” and is from an author really reaching the height of her powers. Rather like, “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” this has a lovely, gothic feel and yet is over-shadowed by Jackson’s better known titles. This is a shame, as it has so much to offer and I am delighted that I have read it.

Jackson’s novels always seemed to have strong beginnings and she outdoes herself here, with our introduction to the Hallorhan family, b
Oct 29, 2014 rated it liked it
The pleasure of reading The Sundial is in the quality of Jackson's prose, the cleverness of the way she does character and plot through dialogue or limited narration, the way she can take almost any scene and infuse it with that little frission of dread and foreboding. I'm not as much a fan of it as I am of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, though there are commonalities; most of the characters are detestable, which is not something I get along with, and all but one or two are quite weak perso ...more
Feb 11, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5. The extra half is for Jackson. Will the Hallorans witness an apocalypse? Will the apocalypse spare the Hallorans like papa Halloran predicted? Read this and find out all the answers. When you have them, let me know.
Cat (cat-thecatlady)
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
there's something about shirley jackson's works that speak deeply to me. I think it's the feeling of unsettlement, the almost-quite-right-but-not-so-much atmosphere, that dry and wicked humor. reading any of her books is just a delight to me.

the sundial precedes most of the author's famous stories but there are so many of her usual traits here. it's still very gothic, very family-centered and very funny. actually, this might be her funniest from what I've read!

but my favorite favorite thing abou
"Aunt Fanny knows when the world will end... Aunt Fanny has always been somewhat peculiar. No one is surprised that while the Halloran clan gathers at the crumbling old mansion for a funeral she wanders off to the secret garden. But when she reports the vision she had there, the family is engulfed in fear, violence, and madness. For Aunt Fanny's long-dead father has given her the precise date of the final cataclysm!"
It took some time for me to get into this book, but after the story took some aw
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t know why I didn’t know this author before now. That’s my second book and I gave it 4 starts just because “We have always lived in a castle” is amazing, and it’s different.
But even “The sundial” just left me without words. This book is an hilarious scene of how a family can collaborate and work together with a strange sense of humour and love and kind of hate, all together.
I am ready for the next one. 😊
Oct 04, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
“Odious” might be too kind a word to describe Mrs. Halloran. Matriarch of a family that includes an invalid husband suffering from dementia; her husband's infantile sister, Aunt Fanny; the newly widowed daughter-in-law, Maryjane; and a sociopathic grandchild, Fancy; her imperious hauteur is matched by a refined pleasure in toying with the dependents housed under her roof. That she is suspected of murdering her only son, Lionel, to insure control of the family assets, especially the mansion, feel ...more
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Having read The Bird's Nest last month, I expected another quality read from Shirley Jackson. Unfortunately, The Sundial failed to grab me. It should have been intriguing: Aunt Fanny's brother dies, but his ghost appears to her with warnings of an upcoming apocalypse, in which only the people inside the family mansion will survive.

OK, this was written decades ago, but the family believes the warning so quickly that it doesn't feel right. Someone does try to skip out, but after she's assaulted sh
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderfully weird, creepy, funny book, with such an oddball cast of characters. The plot is pretty simple: an aristocratic family believes the world is going to end on August 30th, and only people within the Halloran family homestead will survive the apocalypse and be reborn to paradise. Mrs. Halloran, the controlling, overbearing matriarch is the star of the novel. Her wit, cruelty, and vulnerability shines on every page. Can't say I've ever read a book quite like The Sundial.
Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I liked this tale about a dysfunctional family waiting for the apocalypse. It's eery, charming and odd. I just wasn't thaaat into it. A little bit more plot and character development would have been nice. At the best parts it reminded me of a humorous 8 Femmes.
Rebecca McNutt
Jun 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, classic, fiction
This enduring and timeless horror classic is absolutely amazing, filled with imagination and a foreboding sense of dread.
A fascinating, unique allegory about a dysfunctional family facing the Apocalypse. Jackson's writing is really good, perhaps not as much structurally but certainly lyrically and in service to her characters.

It took me a while to figure out that most of the dialogue and character interactions were supposed to be funny, I guess because I was expecting something darker and more sinister. But after being confused by character motives for the 1st quarter or so of the book it hit me: this is theater
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
WHAT IS THIS WORLD. Acerbic, mean, modern, and surprisingly funny. Shirley Jackson was a goddamn genius and I want everyone to read this book and then talk to me about it. One of my favorites this year.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-america
Many years ago as a junior high school student, I remember reading Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” in class and being taken aback with just how....wicked it was. It’s been many years since I’ve come back to her writing but I’m so glad I did. If “The Lottery” was wicked, “The Sundial” is wickedness covered in evil, smothered in a secret sauce of sarcasm and black, black humor. These are some seriously messed up and self important people and yet, I can’t count how many times I laughed ...more
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars. I love Shirley Jackson but this was just ok for me. There were some memorable moments but for the most part this story was a bit too predictable and a bit too exaggerated to be genuinely creepy or funny.
After the funeral they came back to the house[.] - - - Young Mrs. Halloran, looking after her mother-in-law, said without hope, "Maybe she will drop dead on the doorstep. Fancy dear, would you like to see Granny drop dead on the doorstep?" "Yes, mother."

I'll be honest here: as much as I love Jackson, The Sundial didn't fully meet my expectations. All the good stuff is there: quirky and unpleasant characters, a bizarre plot, dark humor etc. I just never really had the kind of connection with
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Reading the 20th ...: The Sundial by Shirley Jackson (April 2020) 72 29 Jul 09, 2020 12:50AM  
The Sundial by Shirley Jackson 4 30 May 27, 2018 03:24PM  
Goodreads Librari...: French language edition 3 19 Dec 12, 2014 04:12PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life
  • Shirley
  • No es un río
  • La masacre de Kruguer
  • Tilly and the Map of Stories (Pages & Co., Book 3)
  • Uncle Paul
  • El lugar donde mueren los pájaros
  • Flyaway
  • Private Demons: The Life of Shirley Jackson
  • The Soul of Kindness
  • Eustace
  • This Is Pleasure: A Story
  • Cold Hand in Mine: Strange Stories
  • City of Spades (London Trilogy, #1)
  • Flores robadas en los jardines de Quilmes
  • The Women of Weird Tales
  • The Draycott Murder Mystery
  • Cursed: An Anthology of Dark Fairy Tales
See similar books…
Shirley Jackson was an influential American author. A popular writer in her time, her work has received increasing attention from literary critics in recent years. She has influenced such writers as Stephen King, Nigel Kneale, and Richard Matheson.

She is best known for her dystopian short story, "The Lottery" (1948), which suggests there is a deeply unsettling underside to bucolic, smalltown Ameri

Related Articles

Are you having a difficult time reading these days? If so, you're not alone. Since the pandemic began, I've found it harder to concentrate on...
87 likes · 37 comments
“When shall we live if not now?” 43 likes
“The sight of one's own heart is degrading; people are not meant to look inward--that's why they've been give bodies, to hide their souls.” 6 likes
More quotes…