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The Stepford Wives
February - Non-English (HOSTING):
March - Women authors:
April - Slashers, serial killers & the like:
May - Non-fiction:
June - Stephen King & family:
July - Graphic novels + children's/YA:
August - Pre and post-Victorian Gothic:
September - Paranormal:
October - Hauntings (/ghost stories):
November - Diversity in horror:
December - Short stories (HOSTING):
- I knew the gist of story already, as I'd seen the 1970s film years ago.
- The author sets the tone immediately with an opening quote from The Second Sex; it gives an underlying feeling of hostility to and resentment of women by men.
- The early masturbation scene: it is incredibly disrespectful of Joanna's husband, and in hindsight it's disturbing that he's so easily sold to the idea of replacing his wife, and so turned on by it.
- The scene where some of the Men's Association visit Joanna and Walter's home is very uncomfortable, almost intimidating. Would a 21st Century woman sit through that? I know I wouldn't. Trying to laugh off the awkward silence while she's sketched by Ike Mazzard, and the contempt shown by the leader, Dale Coba, was more than I'd have put up with. I would have thrown them all out.
- I was struck how domestic Joanna's life is from the beginning. Her days are filled with picking things up and dropping people off, while trying to fit in her own pursuits. It's amazing and horrifying that any man could want more.
- The constant listing of Joanna's activities serves also as a ticking clock, especially after the change in Charmaine. It's a clever way of increasing the suspense and gives the sense that Joanna's days are numbered, without spelling it out.
- Dale Coba is a very convincing misogynist.
- I did find the 70s attitude to race a bit awkward; I know Joanna meant well wanting her daughter to have a black friend but it was patronising.
- There were other 70s subjects - Linda Goodman astrology books, women's lib - but the overall theme of the book was just as relevant today (anyone thinking there isn't any resentment to women out there only has to browse the internet on the subject of men's rights).
- Bobbie seems so familiar - a real woman's woman - that it's all the more sickening when she changes.
- The reveal is very tense, even though I knew it, and so is the hunting down and cornering of Joanna.
- The ending is also pretty depressing, with the new wife pretty much a lamb to the slaughter.
- My copy has an introduction by Peter Straub. He claims to find the men of Stepford ridiculous and funny. I understand that it is satire but as a woman I found them anything but.
Short, very tense, satire that is still relevant today. 5 stars.
- The beginning, with the couple wanting to get out of the busy and noisy city, wasn't belaboured, and allowed the reader to get on with the story.
- The Allardyce's are deliciously weird. All is not right with them, but they are gripping. I found the brother's watching of the son falling over and hurting himself, and then preventing his father from seeing it and helping, very creepy - they're not just batty; they're sinister and do not have good intentions, or at least the brother doesn't.
- The constant staring at Marion comes across as predatory, and the list of other families that have stayed at the house gives a sense of foreboding. Why would the siblings remember them all so well?
- It is obvious that Marian's love of beautiful things is being used against her, but I was surprised when Ben's behaviour started to change. I was enjoying the scene at the pool, it was a great family scene and drew attention to Marion's distance by comparison, so it was quite a shock when Ben turned violent.
- Being set in summer and having a lot of events happen by day gives a fairy-tale quality to the improvement in the house. It's obvious that the house is feeding off Marian in some way (her hair turning grey is one clichéd give-away), but it's more convincing that everyone would be seduced by the house than if it were happening creepily at night.
- Speaking of seduction, the hypnotic quality of the sitting room of old lady Allardyce is very believable. What wife and mother hasn't wished for a room of her own, somewhere quiet to relax?
- The mental deterioration of Ben is convincing, and the death of Aunt Elizabeth is horrible. Her writhing on the bed and her twisted face was nightmarish.
- The appearance of the photo of Aunt Elizabeth scared me. I'd had my suspicions about the photographs but had forgotten all about them by this time.
- I was genuinely scared when Ben couldn't leave a second time with David. I honestly thought that the house would be happy as long as it had Marian. When the house wouldn't let them leave I knew they were doomed, and was both appalled and sad.
- The death of David, and then Ben, was over so quickly and was more shocking for that. It was the sadism of the house that was disturbing; it seemed that Marian was all it needed, and Ben was willing to leave with David and leave Marian to the house.
- The ending wasn't entirely unexpected but was effective for being such a short, sharp shock.
Weird, creepy haunted house tale; not the most subtle of the genre but still very scary. 5 stars.
Prologue - It's clear that the little girl isn't all she seems, but it's also clear that Don's behaviour towards her is abusive and inappropriate. Weird and unnerving on a few levels, depending on whether he's right or wrong about her being something 'other'. I was immediately hooked.
Part 1: After Jaffrey's Party:
- I liked this part the best, and can't fault it, except that it was so good that the rest was bit disappointing by comparison.
- The Chowder Society shouldn't be likeable; they are stuffy, privileged, small-town types, but they are written very well, and come across very human. As a reader you see them through each other's eyes, and therefore with affection.
- Stella is also likeable but shouldn't be; despite her affairs, she's strong, practical, no-nonsense and loyal. I like that she's a strong, complex female character, and as well written as the men. She might be the only one, but shows Straub can pull it off.
- The Fenny Bates story was The Turn of the Screw, more or less. It was a great story in itself.
- The scene where Sears and Ricky trudge through the snow to see Elmer Scales' mutilated sheep was one of my favourites. It was the sort of thing you read in top thrillers and crime dramas, and was more creepy than a lot of more supernatural scenes in the book.
Part 2: Dr. Rabbitfoot's Revenge:
- Didn't much like Don Wanderley's part in the story. The Dr. Rabbitfoot character from Don's book, and the Alma Mobley story, were too much and unnecessary, and spoiled the atmosphere that had been built up in the first part. The intrusion from outside Milburn changed the tone of the book.
- The sighting of the bare-footed boy in the snow was really creepy, but Don's memory of Gregory and Fenny outside a biker bar with Alma struck me as ridiculous.
- Lewis Benedikt and his affairs seemed more tragic than sordid. Another example of Straub's skill with character.
- The listing of what the inhabitants of Milburn were doing at any one time was effective and also a good way of sneaking in the odd chilling event.
- Clark Mulligan showing endless horror films at the local cinema during the book amused me, and worked better than a lot of the other self-referential stuff.
Part 3: The Coon Hunt:
- Peter Barnes was a good character, and what happened to his mother was horrific. The Jehovah's Witness was weird too.
- Many of the other horror scenes were good, but not great, and some seemed a bit silly and interrupted the tension, such as Lewis and the door of pine needles, and the green light coming from Alma/Eva.
- I wasn't convinced about Eva Galli's back-story. For an evil entity she was easy to harm, and by accident too! And for what - teasing a few young men who had a crush on her? And there was no sense of the horror the five of them felt.
- The endless snow was a good backdrop to events.
- Didn't even make the connection with the surnames until a joke made later in the book about 'James, Hawthorne and Poe'. Doh!
Epilogue - WHAT?!!! Don catches the departing ghost in his had and it turns into a wasp, which he stabs! What a stupid ending.
I read the review of the book in Danse Macabre and it seems it was meant to be over the top with every horror cliche thrown at it - and it also WAS The Turn of the Screw.
Loved the first part, liked the rest although not everything worked for me. Without that first part I'd have given it a 3; the beginning was perfectly written and made me care enough about the characters to enjoy the rest and carry on reading. 4 stars.