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The Sundial (Ace Star)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,770 Ratings  ·  227 Reviews
The Sundial is a chilling, suspenseful, bloodcurdlingly macabre novel of twelve strange people awaiting the end of the world in a fantastical house like no other on earth.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published 1958 by Ace Book, NY
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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
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like a sort of compassionate Oscar Wilde, this romp among the tombstones and 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 a ...more
Nov 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Krok Zero
Mar 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Foreword, by Victor LaValle

--The Sundial
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.
"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
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
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Rebecca McNutt
Jun 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, horror, classic
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
Valancourt Books
Maybe she will drop dead on the doorstep. Fancy, dear, would you like to see Granny drop dead on the doorstep?

And so begins The Sundial. A family prepares for the last cataclysm which will destroy everything and everyone outside of the family estate, leaving only the Halloran family and one or two guests to fend for themselves.

A highly entertaining dark comedy that asks the question WHAT IS THIS WORLD?
Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, the-end, c20th
What a strange book, but then again, I expect nothing less than the unusual from Shirley Jackson.

Soon after the funeral of her nephew, the slightly dotty Aunt Fanny has a vision from her late father, warning her of the end of the world and how she and the family may survive.

I was worried after I read some reviews about the overabundance of main characters and the piecemeal narrative, but don't pay any attention to that. There may not be as powerful a central voice as Merricat Blackwood or Elea
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Carla Remy
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century-lit
I wrote in my previous review (when i didn't finish it) that this book epitomizes Shirley Jackson's Gothic Psychedelia.
Aunt Fanny, having a surreal psychotic episode (probably a seizure) sees her father's ghost, who tells her the world will end and all will die but the inhabitants of their family mansion. And everyone there believes her and acts accordingly. This novel is funny and weird and adorably dark and surreal. I find it a heavy book, strange, deep and abstract. I loved the part when Jul
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.
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Podés leer esta y otras reseñas también en mi blog:

En medio de tensiones familiares, situaciones inquietantes, hechos sobrenaturales y personajes conflictivos los Halloran esperan el fin del mundo atrincherados en su mansión. 

Antes de esta novela había leído Siempre hemos vivido en el castillo, de la misma autora; quizás, su obra más famosa, porque representa a la perfección lo que Shirley Jackson quiere mostrar en su obra literaria. Si bien ese libro que
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.
May 03, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
El que menos me ha gustado, hasta ahora, de los libros de esta autora.
Gene Heinrich
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why haven't I embraced Shirley Jackson before now? This was my third book I've read by her and am totally blown away by her style, her insights, her mind. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors! While this novel is not filled with ghosts or creepiness (unless you consider the family interactions creepy... which they are), it does have a very slight other worldliness to it... and tons of comedy. There were times I actually burst out laughing at the insanity of these characters. If you ...more
Sarah Kingston
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shirley, Shirley, Shirley. Every time I pick up one of your books I brace myself for disappointment, knowing that not every novel can be a 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle'. This wasn't that, but by god, you get close.

The concept of this novel is fantastic. A group of inherently unlikable, spoiled, petty characters become convinced that they are receiving messages from beyond the grave warning of the planet's destruction, and wall themselves up together in the big old ancestral home to wait f
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.
Emma Kay Krebs
Omg, Shirley out-Jackson'd herself with this one. Hilarious mix of comedy of manners and apocalyptic tale. Love the characters, and how well-developed they are!
Lee Foust
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Every Shirley Jackson novel I read seems better and more interesting than the last. So happy to have begun exploring her work beyond the obviously Gothic classic The Haunting of Hill House, which I've known since my teenage horror fandom years.

Although I've been reading the novels in a kind of random order, re-constructing the author's progression, The Sundial represents a continuation of the novels of female alienation (I would call them) before the last phase of more pointedly Gothic--although
Vivek Tejuja
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So it had been a while since I read something gothic or along the lines of horror. I then thought of Shirley Jackson. I had heard of her now and then but never got around to reading her. Friends did tell me about, “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” and the more famous, “The Haunting of Hill House” but somehow I never got around to reading her. I am amazed and a little sad that I did not read her before. Well, it is never too late. I am going to devour every book written by Ms. Jackson in this ...more
Stephen Curran
A walled estate, full of lakes and grottos and mazes. Inside this, a vast mansion, decorated with inspirational quotes. Inside this, a seldom visited floor, set up to replicate the childhood home of one of the inhabitants. Then, smaller still, a dolls house with running water and a working kitchen: a replication of the mansion itself, owned by the family's wilful only child. It is within the walls of this enormous estate that the Hallorans plan to wait for the end of the world.

Three books in, I
Brad Geagley
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like many of her works, one of the main characters in the novel is the House wherein the action takes place. In “The Sundial” it is the Halloran mansion, a massively ornate house of perfect symmetry. The only blot on its mad balance is the sundial itself – disjointedly out of place, an eyesore, engraved with a quote from Chaucer, “What is this world…?”
The characters, all of whom are distinctly nasty and small-minded, are the world in miniature. And it is not pretty. Soon after the beginning of t
The last three of Shirley Jackson’s six novels all revolve in some way around old dark houses. The Sundial, the first of this quasi-trilogy, is a black comedy about a group of (mostly awful) people who believe the end of the world is imminent, and that if they shutter themselves in the great family mansion on the night of the apocalypse, they will be the sole survivors–Chosen Ones–tasked with repopulating a new, Edenic earth. Jackson leaves the question as to whether the group is delusional or t ...more
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The Sundial by Shirley Jackson 4 21 May 27, 2018 03:24PM  
Goodreads Librari...: French language edition 3 17 Dec 12, 2014 04:12PM  
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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
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“When shall we live if not now?” 37 likes
“Where did he go, your father?'


'What for?'

'To shoot lions, of course.'

'What on Earth for?' said Mrs. Willow blankly.

'Some people shoot lions,' the girl said pleasantly, 'and some people do not shoot lions. My father is one of the people who do.”
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