Penguin Classics (US & CA: 28th January 2014; UK: 27th March 2014; AU: 28th May 2014)
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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 she’s rescued and brought back to the mansion. Meanwhile, the family tries to recruit people to join them, should the need for repopulating the earth arise – this bit is kind of comical.
And at the end, we’re not told if everyone outside the house dies or not. Might be interesting to read a follow-up. If you wholeheartedly believe that apocalypse will come on a certain date, and you plan and live and everything, and it doesn’t happen…what will you do in the aftermath of the non-event? There are a lot of pre- and post-apocalyptic stories, but I’m not sure if this angle has been as frequently explored in fiction. Something to think about.
But yes, this did not hold my attention at all, and is very much a let-down in comparison to the author’s other works.