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The Houseguest: And Other Stories

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,100 ratings  ·  173 reviews
Like those of Kafka, Poe, Leonora Carrington, or Shirley Jackson, Amparo Dávila’s stories are terrifying, mesmerizing, and expertly crafted—you’ll finish each one gasping for air. With acute psychological insight, Dávila follows her characters to the limits of desire, paranoia, insomnia, and fear. She is a writer obsessed with obsession, who makes nightmares come to life t ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published November 27th 2018 by New Directions (first published June 18th 2018)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  1,100 ratings  ·  173 reviews

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I had high hopes for this debut collection in English translation from Mexican writer Amparo Dávila, but they didn't quite come to fruition. While I appreciated the dark themes, in many cases the delivery turned me off or left me disinterested. It's possible some of this was due to the translation, but likely not much of it. The first couple of stories featured first-person narrators with flat tones and little personality. These two stories and several others also rely on similar tropes—the kind ...more
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A short story collection by the Mexican author Amparo Davila. I tend to not pick up short story collections because sometimes there is an inconsistency in quality: one story is bad, the next is 'meh', maybe one in the bunch is alright. Well, all of the stories in The Houseguest, IMO, were phenomenal. Davila writes some creepy and surreal stories about fear, entrapment, and responsibilities. Perhaps on accident, Davila wrote in many of her stories about fears particular to women, such as marriage ...more
Nate D
Mar 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those beset by unwanted visitors and circumstances
Recommended to Nate D by: Emilie
Strange undercurrents menace the domestic mundane -- doubles, obsessions, ambiguous unwanted visitors. I'm not surprised to see that Cortazar approved, and though these don't push quite so far into genuine surprise and imagination, they possess many moments that point that way. And I generally enjoyed Davila's primary voice here to her borrowed version in The Iliac Crest, which originally alerted me to her existence. I suspect this collection draws from across her career, which seems to span a n ...more
Joey Shapiro
Dec 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is everything I wanted Samanta Schweblin’s book of short stories to be!! Subtle and creepy little 10ish page stories that sneak up on you and linger in the back of your noggin in the wee hours of night. Davila has a way of leaving out precisely the right pieces of crucial information to unnerve you, like in the first story where a character adopts his recently-dead brother’s pets. She doesn’t say what kind of pets they are, and at first it seems safe to assume they’re probably just cats or ...more
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Another constant manifests in Dávila's fiction: the unseen menace. Over and over again characters find themselves in danger, or in thrall to a horror that is not described, only hinted at. Full review at NPR: ...more
Joe M
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I can definitely second the Shirley Jackson and Poe comparisons being made of Mexico's Amparo Dávila in this excellent collection of dark and unsettling stories. The word "Sinister" seems to pop up often around Dávila's style, which fits the bill perfectly, and like Jackson, she artfully blends domestic life with the uncanny and psychological terror in these 12 creepy tales. Personal favorites include "Moses and Gaspar," "The Houseguest," and "The Cell," but the centerpiece "Musique Concrete" is ...more
Evan Mac
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dàvila is deservedly compared to Kafka and Poe for her mastery of existential, brutal short stories. Beyond those men, though, she is preternaturally attune to the psychology of anxiety, sadness, and fear. She is deeply intuitive, connected to sensitive veins of dread, and she cuts with clean and sharp lines.

The sum of her work is unavoidably political. She deals with femininity, sexuality, violence, and power in many of these stories. The story Tina Reyes stands out for its misery and realism;
Bill Hsu
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
There were certainly snippets of fascinating ideas in the first few stories. But it seemed to me that Davila was more interested in developing the more mundane mechanics of her stories. The last few stories lost me altogether.
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Succinct, well wrought short stories that leave the reader breathless in their intensity. No wasted words, just atmospheric story telling at it's best. Reminiscent of Poe in their brevity and import. ...more
Scottsdale Public Library
I was spellbound when I saw the blurbs, “Like Poe for the new millennium” and “Mexico’s answer to Shirley Jackson.” Like Poe, Amparo fixates on obsession driving people to the brink of madness or beyond. Amparo has mastered a way to do this subtlety in a masterful way. The cause of terror is sometimes unseen, but nevertheless unsettles the reader. In the tradition of classic horror icons Poe and Shirley Jackson, where sometimes the unknown becomes even more haunting. -Lisanne E.
AJ Strosahl
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If there exists a more perfect collection of existentially terrifying stories, I may not be woman enough to handle it.
Meg Powers
This collection has been compared to Shirley Jackson, and rightfully so- Dávila imbues the mundane with a creeping menace. Through careful omissions of specific details ( "Moses and Gaspar" is a perfect example of this), she lulls the reader into a certain set of expectations only to incrementally betray them, subtly heaping on the dread and anxiety.

I recommend The Houseguest: And Other Stories as a cathartic read for anyone who has escaped unhealthy and emotionally abusive living situations; w
Miranda Hency
Oct 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, own
What a stunning little collection of short stories!! I thoroughly enjoyed every single one, which is rare since stories are generally hit or miss. They were all so ominous and unsettling in often subtle ways, starting out as very average-day type tales, but eventually unraveling into something terrifying. Many of the stories focus on a main character, who has an otherwise mundane life, being tormented by an undisclosed creature, often completely taken over by the fear of it. Others follow the ch ...more
Irene (Read.Rewind)
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 ....more thoughts to come. Favorite: Musique Concrete. Then: Tina Reyes.
Lauren ReVeal
Nov 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal and well at home with comparisons to Kafka and Leonora Carrington <3
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, I haven't read short stories that excited my existence in such a long time. Clearly, Amparo Dávila is one of the best short story writers out there and she has her own unique way of telling.

The Houseguest & Other Stories is a supernatural fantasy combines with real life. Each story centers by the life of different women. It is a perfect piece of art that illustrates the typical lives of women, mostly being victimized by social norms. It's sad to say that the women victim (or the woman destr
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was first introduced to Amparo Davila by reading Christina Rivera Garza's The Iliac Crest earlier in 2018 in which she creates an archetype of the author with the character of the mysterious visitor. But Davila's writing is much more accessible than Garza's. These are dark, twisted tales to savor. This collection of Davila's stories written during the 20th century that was first published in Spanish in 2009 is the debut of her work in English published by New Directions in 2018. I loved it! ...more
Diana G.
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: female-authors
This is Amparo Davila's compilation of short stories. She is determined to shed light into what look normal, but the darker side of it, for example the memories of childhood games and the consequences now as an adult. she can portray nightmares into words, and the illustrations for each story is "ad hoc" and adds more to the atmosphere that the author is creating. This is a hardcover book, published on 2018.
Good for all ages.
Feb 29, 2020 rated it liked it
I wanted this to exceed my expectations, but it straddled the line between good and ok. The stories started to embody a sense of sameness after the first few idk I'll probably revisit later. Read if you're into goth lit and the sublime and things of that nature. Also holy shit this author is so deeply disturbed lmao!!!! ...more
This book did not come to me at the right time for me to really appreciate it.

Even though it's a very short collection, after the first half or so there's a sense of sameness to the stories that began to wear. Perhaps a better collection to dip in an out of, instead of reading straight through.
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I came upon this book by way of a Goodreads recommendation related to Silvina Ocampo. I learned about Ocampo through a recommendation on Twitter from the author Amber Sparks. So in a weird sort of way I have her to thank for discovering this excellent collection of disquieting short fiction. Sparks is also the person I would most want to recommend this to if she didn't already know about it. The stories all got under my skin in one way or another. Dávila's expertise is the careful use of detail. ...more
Andrea Blythe
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amparo Dávila is a beloved figure in Mexican horror, writing horror stories in Spanish since the 1950s. Now for the first time, her work appears in English translation through the publication of The Houseguest and Other Stories in mid-2018 — which I had to pick up as soon as I was aware of its existence.

Translated by Matthew Gleeson and Audrey Harris, the language presented in Dávila’s collection of stories has a subdued beauty that calls forth underlying tensions and terrors of daily life. The
Swetha Amit
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Houseguest is a collection of 12 short stories that are set in Mexico. It revolves around characters who are dealing with some terrifying unseen force or a menace.

The stories range from a man who is in charge of his deceased brother's pets, a woman tormented by the house guest, a man obsessed with his old love, a diary of a person to a woman depressed with the outcome with her life. The characters are found dealing with a sense of despair.In her engaging manner, she describes the terror tha
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
The stories in this collection are strange and engrossing, but leave a lot unsaid. Were Moses and Gaspar… cats? Was the titular Houseguest a human, or a dog? These questions and many more swirl in my mind as I set out to put interpretations to the contents of this collection. Ceaselessly unsettling, I was surprised that these stories mostly felt short of actually making me feel spooked. I think I personally require a greater deal of specificity for a story to give me chills, but if undefined lur ...more
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A quick, cool little collection of short stories with a sort of eerie, surreal tone that does very well. Everything relationship herein, it seems, has a threat of violence that can come from nowhere, but is always present. Some of the characters are frightening ogres, some are meek relatives. All of them have an underlying darkness.
Shannon McLeod
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Twisted, dark, and full of surprises, I loved this book! I’d especially recommend this to short story writers. One of those books that inspires you to write. I think I’ll be returning to these stories again in the future. This is a really interesting collection.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Witty tales with elegant and delicate twists, always pulling into the dark.
Judith Vives
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
this was weird and wonderful and sometimes sinister. i loved it all.
Jeff Basile
Sep 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
3 1/2⭐️ rounded up. It’s so hard to give a review to a short story compilation: some were amazing, some were not my favorite. But, overall, entertaining and quick
Christopher Jude
can’t really rate this one
had trouble with the translation- there were some very delightful moments however

“we could have circled around 1000 times and always ended up where we began”
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Amparo Dávila born 1928 in Zacatecas, Mexico is a Mexican author. Dávila was the sole surviving child of her parents. The oldest son died at childbirth. The next son died as a result of meningitis, and the last son died during his infancy. She learned to love reading at an early age from spending time in her father's library. Her childhood was marked by fear, a theme that appeared in a number of h ...more

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