Maureen’s review of The Sundial (Ace Star) > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Micha (new)

Micha I LOVED this novel, Mo! I'm so glad you recommended it. I mean I would have read it eventually, because I am now completely addicted to Shirley Jackson, but this has become my favourite of her novels because it is SO funny or horrid at the same time. So thank you.
It reminds me a bit of the old film of Clue. It must be Tim Curry....


message 2: by Micha (new)

Micha Essex IS a total cad! But there is such an endearing quality to him too...


message 3: by Maureen (new)

Maureen micha: i don't know how i never saw these comments, but i am so glad you liked this book! and essex -- he has a brilliant mind but he is a rather weak soul -- it's all he can do to withstand aunt fanny, and there's not a man that could stand up to orianna. there are so many wonderful villains in this book. in fact, practically everyone at the house. :)


message 4: by Maureen (new)

Maureen and what about the "captain"? i'm always going to wonder who he was. :)


message 5: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell I have this EXACT same paperback edition. I really need to read it.


message 6: by Bri (new)

Bri Fidelity I was going to say 'Essex? Really? Really Essex?' but then I got sidetracked thinking about Jackson heroes actually worth dating and came up with Nobody.


message 7: by Maureen (last edited Apr 04, 2012 10:23PM) (new)

Maureen Moira wrote: "I have this EXACT same paperback edition. I really need to read it."

this is the second version of this paperback i've had. i also had the scholastic one. and that other one with ghosty aunt fanny. but i gave them all away. and now i have this one again. except pages are falling out. so i should get another one. :P


message 8: by Maureen (new)

Maureen Bri wrote: "I was going to say 'Essex? Really? Really Essex?' but then I got sidetracked thinking about Jackson heroes actually worth dating and came up with Nobody."

oh brian, it is one of my fatal flaws that i love the charming cads. i also love james harris, and shirley just basically hints at him through the lottery stories. we've never spent a lot of time together but i think about him a lot. :P

in the case of essex: i know he's weak, indolent, self-serving and clearly whored himself out to orianna, but he talks such a pretty game, and he's honest about what he is, and he did originally show up at the house to catalogue the books in the library... you see? i'm hopeless. it's the words! he has the best words. :)


message 9: by Maureen (new)

Maureen p.s. i'm excited because my copy of the magic of shirley jackson today. for the novels, i think i'm going to read life among the savages again first, then raising demons. then the bird's nest. :)


message 10: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Maureen wrote: "p.s. i'm excited because my copy of the magic of shirley jackson today. for the novels, i think i'm going to read life among the savages again first, then raising demons. then the bird's nest. :)"

That is such a great book! Bird's Nest is so great.


message 11: by Bri (new)

Bri Fidelity Maureen wrote: "i also love james harris, and shirley just basically hints at him through the lottery stories."

I'd totally be fooled by some enigmatic nutter being nice to me on a horrible day like in 'The Tooth' (especially if they told bizarre stories of tropical islands and phantom drums and waves ringing on the shore like bells). And I think I might like some of the bizarre places he's take me on dates (for instance: the hospital reception during the death of the famous writer in 'A Great Voice Stilled', when all the phoneys are scrambling to be upstairs at his bedside and someone brings vodka). But every time he turned on the charm I'd just remember 'The Daemon Lover' - both versions - and Betsy running away from the Rose Room in The Bird's Nest and think virtuously of - ha! I know: Mr. Dudley.

"and he did originally show up at the house to catalogue the books in the library"

Ha! True.


message 12: by Joel (new)

Joel I like this review a lot - I've only just finished it for the first time, although I've read a fair bit of Jackson before, and you summed up so many of my feelings about it.

What, then, was the scene that scared you most?


message 13: by Maureen (new)

Maureen Joel wrote: "I like this review a lot - I've only just finished it for the first time, although I've read a fair bit of Jackson before, and you summed up so many of my feelings about it.

What, then, was the sc..."


thanks so much for your kind words, and sorry, joel. i find myself only sporadically visiting goodreads these days so i just saw your message now. i'm going to use spoiler tags here:

(view spoiler)


message 14: by Joel (new)

Joel Ah, I can see exactly what you mean there. (view spoiler)


message 15: by Lara (new)

Lara As soon as I'd finished The Sundial, I came here to read your review, Mo, and it's fantastic. Your review, I mean. You're right, there is something Wildean about her characters' dialogue; there is wit and humour on every page.

My favourite character is Essex too - I love that you call him a cad. Liked Mrs Willow a lot too although she had to grow on me.

The scariest part of the novel for me was Julia's failed attempt at going to the city - the leery driver, the dark night, the thick fog - although the fearful paralysis Essex experiences in your scariest part did make me feel uncomfortable! The scariest character (apart from that damn driver)? Fancy. Those first words she says at the beginning of the book, that dolls' house of hers, and of course she did you-know-what to you-know-who, right? Didn't she? In my head she did.

Enjoyed it - didn't love it as you do but I understand why you do. It was a pleasure to read your favourite novel and smile at the parts at which you would smile. I often heard your laughter in my head, especially when Essex was talking...


message 16: by Maureen (last edited Sep 30, 2014 05:19PM) (new)

Maureen Lara wrote: "As soon as I'd finished The Sundial, I came here to read your review, Mo, and it's fantastic. Your review, I mean. You're right, there is something Wildean about her characters' dialogue; there is ..."

hello sweet lady: sorry it took so long to come reply to this! i am so glad you liked the book -- it doesn't matter if it hasn't become a favourite -- yet. i mean, since you own it, you may read it again someday, and i have found i love the book more on subsequent readings because once you know how the story unfolds, you can just enjoy the repartee, or dig deeper into the book. since you were reading it, i picked it up again. i read the first five pages and looked at my last status update (where i stopped five pages in) and remembered my excitement about the seneca quote that introduces the novel. then i read page six where essex quotes chaucer (the knight's tale) and read more about the fact that the knight's tale was influenced by a book of boccaccio's (not the decameron) and stopped again because i realized the next time i read this, i want to compile a list of literary references in the sundial. it's such a simple novel but there's so much going on. :)

agree about mrs. willow -- when she first butts herself and her daughters, she seems a loose cannon in orianna's attempt to control her universe. and that whole julia episode -- i'm so glad you pointed that up! that's a very scary moment which i had forgotten about until you mentioned it -- and i think there are echoes of that fearful sense of oppression throughout the book.

i've never quite made up my mind about fancy and her reality, except to know that i am scared of her, or any hallucinations of her (i still don't know if that was her in the garden with aunt fanny. i know it would suit her purpose to make fanny go mad -- i am just not sure of the timing, though. of course i will think about it some more next time i read it. it's things like these that make me love the book: it's not perfect, it doesn't give you all the answers but i am happy to put on my literary detective hat and go looking for my own. :)


message 17: by Bri (last edited Sep 29, 2014 12:24PM) (new)

Bri Fidelity Lara wrote: "Aand of course she did you-know-what to you-know-who, right? Didn't she? In my head she did."

She's the strongest contender, and I'm pretty sure that's who Jackson had in mind - but if she hadn't wanted us to wonder, she wouldn't have had it happen offscreen.

Gloria the would-be usurper is a strong candidate - or maybe she and Essex together, if you take Mrs. Halloran's dream of the gingerbread house as foreshadowing. Aunt Fanny also has a power rivalry motive, and you could easily take her 'your blessing will count for so little, afterwards' as a scheming aside. Maryjane and Julia both hate her, and Maryjane certainly considers it poetic justice. Miss Ogilvie, even, finally taking a stand.

OK, so maybe isn't so much that Jackson wants us to wonder as that she's pointing out that it really doesn't matter because it could've been any of these lunatics.


message 18: by Maureen (new)

Maureen Bri wrote: "Lara wrote: "Aand of course she did you-know-what to you-know-who, right? Didn't she? In my head she did."

She's the strongest contender, and I'm pretty sure that's who Jackson had in mind - but if she hadn't wanted us to wonder, she wouldn't have had it happen offscreen.
...
OK, so maybe isn't so much that Jackson wants us to wonder as that she's pointing out that it really doesn't matter because it could've been any of these lunatics. "


i'm so glad bri jumped in here -- he's one of the few book friends i have that loves this book and clearly he thought more about your direct question (ahem) than your whole comment like i did (sigh). hello bri! meet lara. :)

i love what you said about her direct question. and i love the idea of authorial scheming, i have to say. half the time i come up with a clever turn of phrase and share it with the world, i hope that somebody is picking up on its nuances and enjoying them as much as i do. and i think if i had the chops to write a novel like shirley's (or several, and many amazing short stories) i would gloat over the words with a hope that somebody else would appreciate their arrangement as much as i do. so i bet she does want to play with us a bit but i think you're going one better with the lunatic display. i don't know. plotting takes on its other meaning? i love shirley's brain -- i'm not calling her jackson. i can't. i just think of janet singing "miss jackson if you're nasty" :P


message 19: by Bri (new)

Bri Fidelity Maureen wrote: "i'm not calling her jackson. i can't. i just think of janet singing "miss jackson if you're nasty"

Oh dear! Yes, yes, I see your point. (That song was never a hit over here, thank God.)

I have to do the 'author = surname' thing because I noticed a while back I was calling all the male authors by their last names and all the female authors by their first names and it suddenly felt weird and disrespectful. But look around the Internet! Everybody does it.


message 20: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Bri wrote: "I have to do the 'author = surname' thing because I noticed a while back I was calling all the male authors by their last names and all the female authors by their first names and it suddenly felt weird and disrespectful. But look around the Internet! Everybody does it. "

I for one appreciate that. I called a high school teacher on that once and got some muddled, lame-ass justification along the lines of "women authors are more casual and approachable so it's like they're our friends so we can call them by their first names."


message 21: by Maureen (new)

Maureen oh i totally appreciate brian and also your appreciation of him. shirley is special to me and i like to think we would've been on a first name basis. but i never do it with iris murdoch or muriel sparks (though i speak much of the two margarets of canadian literature and there may well be more.) but it's not cool that people will do that specifically with women over men -- half the time english first names are as common as the last name jackson so it's just not practical either. john who? jane who? i am not going to go looking for this though -- i'll just take your word for it. and really, i would rather talk about the sun dial anyway.

speaking of which, i realized i still never answered lara's direct question. if she's asking what i think she's asking, then yes, i think it was fancy. :)


message 22: by Adrian (new)

Adrian Enjoyed the novel. Three-way tie between this one, Hill House, and Castle. Admirable in different ways. Still, I prefer Shirley Jackson's short stories, though I believe "The Lottery" should have ended with Mrs. Hutchinson winning a new sports car and driving away. :P

(view spoiler)

I have some negative comments, but I should save those for a rainy day.


message 23: by Maureen (last edited Nov 20, 2014 07:23PM) (new)

Maureen i'm glad you enjoyed it! as i always say i think it is a novel that grows more charming on the re-read, and i definitely agree that all of the novels you mention have different strengths. i don't disagree that she was at her most masterful in the short story form (somewhere up there in the comments i mention my devotion to james harris) and am fine with you having some negative comments as until i met bri, i couldn't find anybody who'd even enjoyed it half as much as i did, and of course that was incomprehensible to ME. but i am used to it. can't think of a novel with a more enjoyably shocking first page than this one though. when lara was here for dorkapalooza she was forced to endure me reading it aloud to her. :)

(view spoiler)


message 24: by Adrian (new)

Adrian Maureen wrote: " more and more i wish i could actually go to the house with all its homilies scrolled around in gold. ..."

So ... which quotations would you have chosen to be scrolled in gold?

I would have picked Voltaire's immortal ending for Candide: "...il faut cultiver notre jardin" (Appropriate when you think of what those lunatics were expecting.)

I just received the latest issue of The Kurt Weill Newsletter. There's a photo of a '50s production of the opera Mahagonny with actors holding up protest signs. I would have chosen this funny item to be carved in gold, perhaps the ultimate protest:

ALL
AGAINST
ALL


message 25: by Maureen (last edited Nov 26, 2014 09:39PM) (new)

Maureen Adrian wrote: "Maureen wrote: " more and more i wish i could actually go to the house with all its homilies scrolled around in gold. ..."

So ... which quotations would you have chosen to be scrolled in gold?

I ..."


you made my brain break by asking which quotations: i thought i could just gape at " what is this world?" until my jaw locked. :P

i've been reading the 1001 nights and i find some of the poems interspersed to be stupefying in the same good (and bad) ways that the elder richard's were.

but if i had such a house, i would emblazon my favourite quote, number one on my list of quotes on goodreads of course, from etherege's man of mode, upon the mantel. and of course i would cause it to have gold cast over brass. :)

though i am tempted to steal

all
against
all.

:)


message 26: by Nandakishore (new)

Nandakishore Varma Just started on this. It's seriously weird, and I think I am going to like it.

I like reading about weird families - mine is (on my mother's side). Well, not quite to the Shirley Jackson level, but pretty eccentric. The funny thing is that almost all of us are creative to a higher or lesser degree, and the eccentricity is in direct proportion to the creativity.

Nice review, Maureen.


message 27: by Michael (new)

Michael This is a wonderful review. I love Shirley Jackson, but I've yet to read this. I've put it high atop my to-read pile!


message 28: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer I wish I could read The Sundial for the first time again! I don’t feel that way about a lot of books but this one I do.


message 29: by Lorie (new)

Lorie I love this novel too. I just love Shirley Jackson. This novel is her wittiest by far. I have read it half a dozen times in my life and I'll probably read it a half dozen more.


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