Read The Sundial by Shirley Jackson Online


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 hAunt 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!...

Title : The Sundial
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780140083170
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 245 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Sundial Reviews

  • Fabian
    2019-03-28 01:44

    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 author whom, if you have not read yet, you most definitely should. It's almost religious, this bond formed between us two.Anyway, the theme here is charlatanism. The seance & its ministrations are at the forefront (along with story faves such as family curses, a limboesque arena for the wind-up toys to snap at each other in, creepy children and naive adults); you see, Shirley J. writes about this solely because she herself is its inverse. She's the real deal.This is like Edward Gorey f***ing the Addams family! The magic is derived from the fact that characters are added & subtracted with so much freakish frequency that it all seems as in a feverish dream.

  • Michael
    2019-04-14 02:53

    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 returning to its estate after the funeral of Lionel Halloran, the heir to the fortune, who was pushed down the stairs by his own mother. The first words uttered by the mother? "It's over," Mrs. Halloran said. And then, to her husband, the young man's father: "He's gone, Richard," she said. "Everything went off beautifully."Ouch. Soon one of the family gets a vision of the world ending, and the rest of the novel is spent busily preparing for this monumental happening, all lorded over by Mrs. Halloran, who grows into the role of leader of this small band of expected survivors. It's all so witty and dark, and then the end (which I won't reveal) serves to deepen the entire work, as in a way it circles back to its sad beginning. So while all the elements didn't come together quite as seamlessly as in We Have Always Lived in the Castle or The Haunting of Hill House, this is still a magnificent work, and one that I will no doubt re-read with pleasure.

  • Maureen
    2019-04-12 03:05

    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 smile at the dialogue in this novel, for me, some of shirley's wittiest writing. it almost feels like oscar wilde briefly inhabited her mind when she wrote this book because the characters are so pert, and alive, that even when they are cruel, or shallow, or stupid, i am fond of them. the drunk villagers are a joy each time, and i am as foolishly in love with essex as ever i was, though i know he is a cad.people i have loaned it to never seem to like this book as much as i do; perhaps it is because i am a crooked and misbegotten as it is. several found fault with the ending which makes me perfectly content -- the ending they want i think would have to be a whole other book. i find everything i want in a book here: poetry, and confusion, loneliness, and fear, and the waiting for something bigger than yourself, so that you don't have to think about yourself, or what the point is, anymore. thank you shirley, for leaving me stories that understand me so well.

  • Nandakishore Varma
    2019-03-29 03:11

    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 - a genuine purveyor of nightmares. In The Sundial, we have Kafka meeting P. G. Wodehouse in an American manor house.As with We Have Always Lived in the Castle, the opening is abrupt and horrifying and hits us with the power of a sledgehammer. The Halloran family has just returned from the funeral of young Lionel Halloran, who has been killed by his mother by being pushed down the stairs. Orianna Halloran killed her only son so that the house would belong to her - at least, until young Fancy, Lionel's daughter, comes of age. Fancy is already dreaming of pushing her Grandma down the stairs, like she did her daddy.And all this is mentioned in the first two pages: it's only a prelude to the story proper.The Hallorans are a dysfunctional family. Apart from the murderess Orianna, there is Maryjane, the weak wife of Lionel: Orianna's husband Richard who's paralysed from waist down and slowly sliding down the slippery slope of dementia: Fancy, who we shall see is as psychopathic as her grandmother: the governess Miss Ogilvie: Essex, a young gigolo who has attached himself to Orianna - and last but not least, Richard's sister Fanny ("Aunt Fanny"), who is skirting the thin line between eccentricity and insanity.In fact, vintage Shirley.The Halloran house, constructed by Fanny's father, is situated near a village which is a tourist attraction in its own right, due to a notorious murder where a young girl wiped off her whole family with a hammer. The house is huge and laid out symmetrically: as is the grounds and garden. Only the sundial stands off-centre, striking a jarring note, with the curious inscription: WHAT IS THIS WORLD? written on it.Immediately after Lionel's death, Aunt Fanny loses her way during a morning ramble in the garden and apparently meets her long-dead father, who gives her the message of doom: the world is going to be destroyed. "From the sky and from the ground and from the sea there is danger; tell them in the house. There will be black fire and red water and the earth turning and screaming; this will come.""Father-Father-when?""The father comes to his children and tells them there is danger. There is danger. Within the father there is no fear; the father comes to his children. Tell them in the house.""Please-""When the sky is fair again the children will be safe; the father comes to his children who will be saved. Tell them in the house that they will be saved. Do not let them leave the house; say to them: Do not fear, the father will guard the children. Go into your father's house and say these things. Tell them there is danger."Fanny relays the message, and (here is where the novel starts to become pure Kafka) apparently the whole household buys into it - initially in a spirit of indulgence, but getting more serious as time goes on. The Halloran family picks up a few guests who become their fellow travellers on the road to Armageddon - Mrs. Willow and her daughters, Gloria, a cousin whose father is away on a game-hunting trip in Africa, and "the captain" - a young visitor to the village picked by Mrs. Halloran to add to her coterie. Together, they await the destruction of the old world and the birth of the new, and story moves slowly and surely to its destructive climax.----------------------------------------Shirley Jackson's writing is pure delight. I have always felt that humour and horror straddled a thin line: many horror scenes could become sources of belly-laughter if not managed properly, and many jokes would make good horror stories. Shirley does the tightrope act splendidly. Her characters are unpleasant and serious enough to inspire unease, but they show their ridiculous side (especially in the dialogue which is very Wodehousian in this novel) often enough to make us laugh.One cannot miss out the religious undertones. The only son who is sacrificed: the father who plans to destroy the world and save only one family: The burning of the books: The matriarch who wears a crown (which looks "just like a substitute for a hat", to put in the ridiculous touch)(view spoiler)[ and who is killed by her successor who appropriates it (hide spoiler)]: Gloria, the seer who can see the future in a mirror... the story could have slipped all the way into religious allegory, had not the author reined it in every time with expert hands.The climactic party on the grounds of the Halloran house is a masterpiece of scene-setting. What starts as a rather formal affair slowly slides down into an orgy of eating, drinking, bawdy talk and sex. I was reminded of this painting by Bosch..After this Armageddon is only to be expected.----------------------------------------The sundial, actually does not have much of a role in the story. (view spoiler)[There is one scene where Maryjane and Arabella (one of Mrs. Willow's daughters) discover Fancy's grandmother doll, stuck full of pins as in a voodoo ritual, left on it. In hindsight, we can see this foreshadows the body of Orianna Halloran left near the sundial. (hide spoiler)]. But we feel its sinister presence throughout. By being off-centre in a symmetric world, the sundial is questioning the reality of this world: this comfortable day-to-day world we are accustomed to.Like Shirley Jackson's novels.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Krok Zero
    2019-04-12 04:03

    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 mostly hate each other. The novel chronicles their interactions as they wait for a premonition to come true and plan for the paradisiacal new world that supposedly awaits them.Also, it's funny.The neat irony at the center of Jackson's style here is how all the characters comport themselves with extreme decorum and refinement, yet at the same time are openly hostile toward each other. It makes for a lot of dryly hilarious dialogue and devious plotting.Another impressive thing Jackson does is to render irrelevant the question of whether the end of the world is "real" and whether the characters are crazy for believing in it. There is no authorial judgment of the characters; the point is that they believe in this thing, for various reasons, and it doesn't matter if we believe it. And they do have their reasons: leadership opportunities, spiritual connection with dead loved ones, fear of non-paradisiacal life lived as a failure, or the simple power of Pascal's wager.Speaking of those characters, they are wonderfully drawn--especially for such a short novel. My favorite is the world-weary, self-deprecatingly witty Essex, who I could easily see being played by George Sanders. (In fact, almost all the characters come off as British--I guess mid-20th-century pseudo-aristocratic Americans acted rather Britishly). And it's impossible not to love the family's wicked matriarch Mrs. Halloran, who takes charge of the family's post-apocalyptic planning with extreme prejudice. (In one of the book's funniest details, Mrs. Halloran insists on wearing a crown during a party given at the house, and thereafter into the new world.)Amid all this there is at least one nail-biting suspense set piece, involving a character's attempted escape from the house. Since the rest of the book is relatively uneventful, plotwise, that one sequence really sticks out as a tour-de-force. There's also one really funny sequence involving another group of eschaton-hopefuls, whose belief system hinges on salvation courtesy little green men from outer space.I don't think it's too spoiler-y to say that the book ends on a note of ambiguity. My immediate reaction to this was annoyance, but after some thought I realized the ending is perfect. As Maureen put it in her lovely review, the ending one might crave would have to be a whole other book. It's so much more tantalizing and frightening to imagine the possibilities that Jackson leaves open.I'm holding back on five stars because there is one exposition-y section earlyish in the book that is, as far as I can tell, completely extraneous on both a narrative and a thematic level. I kept thinking it was gonna pay off, and it never did. But that's really a nitpick. Call it 4.75 stars. Regardless, it's an unclassifiable, largely unheralded work that really deserves to be back in print. Check your local libraries, folks.

  • Edward
    2019-04-14 04:58

    Foreword, by Victor LaValle--The Sundial

  • Nikki
    2019-04-04 23:57

    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 personalities, which means they don't act much versus a single powerful character -- which makes that character repellently appealing, but makes the rest of them seem pretty insipid.Overall, it's never clear whether this is meant to be horror, literary, fantasy/spec fic, whatever. It can be what you want it to be. What it is really is a story about people and the way they act and react, and how difficult it would be to find people who are really worthy of inheriting a new world. You don't have to accept that the world is really ending, only that the characters believe so.As you'd expect, there's also a fine sense of place; the Hallorans' home is a character in the story too. There's a lot of description of it, which is all revealing of character and the history of the family, but if you don't have the patience for it, that might seem quite slow.

  • Ziba
    2019-04-17 05:51

    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.

  • Lotte
    2019-04-22 00:07

    "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 awesome twists and turns, I ended up highly enjoying it! I think that if you liked one of Shirley Jackson's other works, you'll definitely enjoy this! There are a lot of themes that reoccur in Jackson's writing (e.g. the setting in a big isolated mansion, a large number of characters that aren't particularly likeable, and so on...) It's twisted, absurd at times, super creepy, ((view spoiler)[that scene with the taxi driver gave me some serious chills! (hide spoiler)]), and also pretty freaking hilarious. Definitely recommend!

  • Jeff Jackson
    2019-03-30 03:44

    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 view of the story, its trajectory, and highly ambiguous message.

  • Tez
    2019-04-24 00:59

    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.

  • blakeR
    2019-04-13 01:58

    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 of the absurd! The humor was altogether unexpected and delightful. For example, after removing all of the books in the mansion's library in order to make room for their stockpile of food and supplies, one of the characters thinks, "A library is really a very good place to store things. I had never realized it before."And I mentioned theater -- it really did read like a play most of the time. The whole setting is isolated and insular. . . a limited cast interacting almost solely with themselves. The way they talked past each other or ignored each other's bizarre rantings reminded me a little of Beckett or Raymond Queneau even. The dialogue was fun, snappy and more authentic than most fiction from this era. The fact that nothing ends up really happening is another way it resembles absurdist theater. I don't personally happen to be a big fan of these sorts of uneventful narratives, but I appreciated this one more than most.Overall I liked-it-didn't-love-it and am eager to experience more of Jackson's writing. Her mainly pessimistic attitude -- that even getting a chance to "reboot" with a clean slate after the Apocalypse we'll probably still manage to mess it up in the same exact ways -- fits right into my cynical wheelhouse. It is also surprisingly timely. Sure there are some etiquette quirks that date the characters a bit, but thematically it fits into whatever time period you want. Also, I loved the random, bizarre interpretation of the "Hansel & Gretel" fairy tale that Jackson inserts as Mrs. Halloran's dream sequence. Totally unexpected and equally delightful.So pick it up because she's a well-respected classic scifi/horror author, but stick around because she was a better, edgier, less conventional writer than most of her male counterparts of the era. My search for edgy female authors is finally beginning to bear fruit! Imagine: I only needed to go back 60 years or so to find one. . .Not Bad [email protected]

  • Myles
    2019-03-27 01:12

    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 Eleanor here, but the Halloran's and their, for lack of better words, friends, are perfect for this story. Since this is Shirley Jackson, there's room to doubt anything supernatural going on at all even while Jackson also, brilliantly, as pointed out by another reviewer, makes that distinction not matter at all because of how much they themselves believe in it.This book works more as an unsettling satire or comedy than as "horror" as my restless need to categorize books and authors currently labels it. The Sundial has the funniest and most witty writing that I've read of Jackson's outside of her family stories. And then, just like when the villager's in The Lottery begin picking up stones, it can get ugly and tense in only a few words.This edition, I believe the last time it was printed, I think must have been a part of some scheme to market Jackson's work to kids. The art and formatting, the mostly inaccurate back-cover copy, I love because of its eighties cheese factor (along with it's sister editions The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle), but must have confused a hell of a lot of people expecting something along the lines of Stephen King, or more likely, R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike.I love this book and how there is so much going on under and above the surface, the dubious relationships, the little vignettes, the long vignettes (including a mirror case to Lizzie Borden no less)...I just know with this one, even more so than her other works, that my appreciation of this is going to grow.

  • Rebecca McNutt
    2019-03-30 23:51

    This enduring and timeless horror classic is absolutely amazing, filled with imagination and a foreboding sense of dread.

  • Carla Remy
    2019-04-14 00:11

    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 Julia gets lost in the fog at night. Also the dollhouse and the shrubbery maze.

  • Valancourt Books
    2019-04-23 04:57

    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?

  • Gala
    2019-04-07 05:47

    Podés leer esta y otras reseñas también en mi blog: 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 menciono me gustó un poco más que El reloj de sol, pienso que esta historia sigue mostrando excelentemente la esencia de esta particular autora. Ambientes siniestros, personajes perversos y situaciones casi sobrenaturales son los condimentos más interesantes de este texto, cuya autora es, para mí anteriormente desconocida, sin lugar a dudas uno de los mejores descubrimientos del año. Al igual que en Siempre hemos vivido en el castillo en El reloj de sol hay una cuestión muy importante que rige durante toda el libro: la figura de la casa. En esta historia la mansión de los Halloran cumple una función, podríamos decir, doble; por un lado, es un símbolo de protección a los embistes del fin del mundo que se está acercando, pero por otro lado, es también el lugar en donde se desarrollan los momentos, y también los personajes, más opresivos de la trama. Lo que de alguna forma es algo destinado a proteger a los Halloran es al mismo tiempo lo que hace relucir sus peores miserias. De hecho, el único ambiente importante para el argumento de esta novela es la casa, más allá de que en algún momento alguno de los personajes decida salir y la narración nos lo haga saber. De esta forma, el terror en esta historia se vuelve cotidiano, en la medida en que este se desarrolla en el ambiente familiar. Si bien es cierto que el terror empieza con algo sobrenatural (que podríamos identificar en la aparición del padre de la tía Fanny, el cual le advierte del fin del mundo) no podría asegurar con total firmeza que el mismo se desarrolla pura y exclusivamente con este hecho. Por el contrario, el terror que acecha por todas y cada una de las páginas se presenta de una forma cotidiana, como algo de todos los días. ¿De qué forma? Básicamente, a partir de la construcción de los personajes. Por ejemplo, en el inicio de la novela sabemos que un miembro de la familia, Lionel, hijo de Richard Halloran y nieto del primer señor Halloran, padre de este último, ha muerto. Luego del velorio se establecen distintos diálogos entre los familiares, y en uno de ellos nos enteramos de que, por boca de la pequeña (y perversa) Fancy, hija de Lionel, su padre murió en manos de su abuela Orianna, esposa de Richard. En ese descubrimiento tenemos dos cuestiones interesantes por analizar: por un lado, el propio acto de la abuela de matar a Lionel y, por el otro, el hecho del aparente “encubrimiento” del mismo a cargo de los familiares. La única que parece sacarlo a la luz y la que efectivamente habla de él es Fancy, aunque tampoco parece muy afectada  por la muerte de su padre. Es de esta forma, mediante diálogos y conversaciones, que uno como lector va enterándose de la esencia de los personajes. El mayor logro de este libro está en cómo Jackson logra combinar de gran manera este ambiente opresivo y bastante inquietante y perverso con muchos momentos satíricos y de humor (muy negro, por cierto, como era de esperarse). La autora construye un grandísimo abanico de personajes muy bien desarrollados; cada uno tiene sus características particulares que los hacen ser fácilmente reconocibles uno de otros. Algo complejo de conseguir, porque además la historia no solo versa sobre los Halloran como familia, sino que también incluye a los criados y amigos de familiares que van apareciendo a medida que avanza la novela. Luego de haber terminado el texto uno podría decir que en El reloj de sol no ocurren demasiadas cosas. Es más, si tuviéramos que contar los hechos “importantes” que van pasando podríamos hacerlo con los dedos de una mano. Pero lo interesante de esto es que la novela sigue siendo, a pesar de esto, sumamente intrigante. Y esto es, en gran medida, gracias a la capacidad de la autora para generar estos personajes, y los ambientes en los que estos se mueven, que impulsan al lector a seguir leyendo constantemente a la expectativa de saber qué ocurrirá. El reloj de sol es una libro que puede leerse rápidamente pero no por el hecho de que su narrativa sea superficial o algo por el estilo, sino que, por el contrario, es la calidad de la prosa de la autora la que permite que la trama avance con fluidez y, al mismo tiempo, consiga generar en el lector una sensación casi compulsiva por saber qué pasará después, qué ocurrirá con los personajes y con la trama en general. El reloj de sol está estructurada en su mayoría por diálogos, lo que también posibilita la rápida lectura de la misma. Es gracias a estas conversaciones que se establecen entre los personajes que podemos dilucidar cómo es que efectivamente son. Siempre es más fácil creernos su personalidad si los vemos en acción o si, en su defecto, vemos cómo piensan. Y eso se logra, en esta novela, a partir de las cosas que estos le dicen o cuentan a otros personajes o, también, a la hora de ver cómo se dirigen hacia los demás miembros de la familia en determinadas situaciones. Ahí es cuando realmente se ponen sobre la mesa las características de la personalidad de cada uno, en la forma en que se expresan o reaccionan ante cierto hecho. En este punto la autora tiene una importancia vital: además de que es ella la que los pone en esas situaciones también es ella la encargada de mostrarnos, a través de estos diálogos, las formas que ellos tienen de pensar, actuar y reaccionar. Estas conversaciones, como para hacerlas aun más interesantes, están cargadas de un humor muy particular, que en muchas ocasiones deja en ridículo a los personajes y, a pesar de la gravedad de algunos de los hechos que van ocurriendo, la forma en que están narrados los hace ver cómicos, satíricos y hasta paródicos.  El reloj de sol es una novela muy interesante. En ella, Shirley Jackson logra plasmar muy bien los temas que evidentemente le importa incluir en su obra, tales como el humor negro, el terror cotidiano y personajes psicológicamente complejos que, en este caso, son intercalados con situaciones sobrenaturales. Un libro (y una autora) a tener muy en cuenta, sumamente entretenido y que tiene, además, un notable valor literario.  

  • Paula
    2019-04-04 03:13

    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.

  • Kusaimamekirai
    2019-03-31 22:58

    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 out loud at just how horribly they treated each other.In short, this is the story of the 3rd generation of the Halloran family. They live in a massive stone house surrounded by an impenetrable wall. They are more than happy to have no contact with the outside world as they’ve constructed their own fantasyland where everyone on the outside is beneath them and beneath even thinking about. That is until a member of the family, Aunt Fanny, has a vision from her dead father claiming that the world will soon be wiped out. Naturally, the Halloran clan are the ones who deserve to survive so they begin preparations for the apocalypse amidst constant and gloriously funny sniping at each other. And of course, not telling anyone on the outside they’re about to be vaporised. I can’t even begin to say how much I loved this book and its deliriously self involved characters. It’s full of dark humor, satire, and think veiled social criticism of those who build walls around themselves. Perhaps Jackson was critiquing how the wealthy use that wealth to build metaphorical and physical walls from their fellow human beings? Perhaps she was critiquing how we, rich or poor, sometimes are afraid to venture far from our carefully cloistered and “safe” castles for fear of the unknown? Jackson’s characters here often think about venturing outside the walls but rarely do so because they believe they have everything they need already and it’s “safer” on the inside. Perhaps Jackson wants us to think about taking some risks in our lives. I wonder what Jackson would think of America in 2017 and the social media age where people’s circles arguably have become even smaller and everyone retreats to their corners with little interaction with anyone outside of it. How many of us are living in Jackson’s castle now?These are just some things that occurred to me while reading. Forgetting the social issues she may or may not have been writing about, “The Sundial” just as a damn good and deliciously dark story is well worth the read.

  • Paul
    2019-04-04 04:44

    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.

  • Amanda
    2019-04-13 23:01

    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.

  • Emma Kay Krebs
    2019-04-09 03:04

    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!

  • Vivek Tejuja
    2019-04-08 03:57

    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 year itself. “The Sundial” is a book which really come to think of it cannot fall under any genre. While reading it, I thought it could be classified as Goth or Horror, but somehow that does not do justice to a book of this range and magnificence. The book’s central character is the Halloran mansion, belonging to the Halloran family. The book starts with the death of the son of the family and the story kicks in from there. Aunt Fanny has always been the peculiar one in the family. The one, who wanders, gets lost and then eventually returns on her own. This time she returns with a revelation: Her father, the late Mr Halloran appeared to her – a vision and revealed that the world will come to an end and the only people who will survive will be the ones who are in the house. The household is rather calm about it, they believe her and wait for the end to arrive. There is Mr Halloran (Fanny’s brother) and his wife, Mrs. Halloran, their daughter-in-law, Maryjane, their granddaughter Fancy, the help (so to say) Essex and Ms. Ogilvie, who are the principal characters of the house, and more start entering the house, once the news spreads. The family believes that the new world is just for them. There are a lot of undertones in the book – which I had a ball reading and identifying. The strained relationships sometimes lead to violence. The hatred for one another is apparent and the new world also perhaps cannot do much for them. There is a part in the book which is my most favourite – that said by the young child, Fancy, about the new world. I thought it would be best to make it a part of my review: “Look. Aunt Fanny keeps saying that there is going to be a lovely world, all green and still and perfect and we are all going to live there and be peaceful and happy. That would be perfectly fine for me, except right here I live in a lovely world, all green and still and perfect, even though no one around here seems to be very peaceful or happy.”For me the above quote somehow sums up the entire book and yet as a reader, I had to keep turning the pages to know how it ends. The title of the book comes from the huge Sundial which is in the Halloran’s garden and of course indicative of passing time and how time is no longer of essence really, but still is. The characters created by Shirley Jackson are spooky, brave, fearsome and at the same time, willing to work towards a change for the better. Their lives are fractured to that extent that they want to put their belief in anything. The writing is packed with punch at every single page. My only grouse (a slight one at that) was that some characters did not get enough of the limelight, but that is alright. It is a great book nonetheless – spooky, weird and contemplative as well. Shirley Jackson for now is my favourite writer of this genre and like I said, I will only read more.

  • Stephen Curran
    2019-04-07 03:51

    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 am starting to learn that Shirley Jackson is not one for making her intentions clear. But as I read The Sundial, I kept thinking about the much-discussed 1%, the small number of super-rich people who grow ever richer, cutting themselves off while the rest of humanity deals with the economic fallout. The Hallorans have 'faith, but faith in agreeably concrete things like good food and the best beds and the most watertight shelter and in themselves as suitable recipients of the world's best'. The world beyond the estate is contemptible. '“There's nothing there,”' says Gloria. '“It's a make-believe world with nothing in it but cardboard and trouble … No one is anything but tired and ugly and mean.”' To them, it seems only natural that they should be cast as the inheritors of the earth.After reading the heightened melodrama of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and the fractured, oppressive physiological study of Hangsaman, I was not surprised to find that The Sundial is strange and unique. But I was surprised to find myself laughing out loud. Every alarming incident is brilliantly undercut by the self-important bitchiness of the characters. When she is told about the ghost who warns Aunt Fanny about the impending apocalypse, Mrs Halloran is incredulous: “You may very well have seen your father; I would not dream of disputing a private apparition. But you could not have seen a gardener trimming a hedge. Not here, not today.”

  • Brad Geagley
    2019-03-27 23:53

    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 the book, one of the characters – a neurotic spinster named Aunt Fanny, daughter of the man who built the house – suffers a dubious visitation from the ghost of her father. He tells her that the world will be ending soon and that all who stay in the house will be safe. The idea is as crazy as Aunt Fanny. Imagine telling the story of Noah’s Ark and dwelling not on salvation, but upon the petty fights for predominance in the world to come among Noah’s sons and their wives. “The Sundial” has an extremely nasty view of humanity, but it is also screamingly funny, with some of the best dialog ever created for a novel. At the end, we are left wondering – for as the last day approaches, clouds and high winds indeed grip the house and unnatural darkness reigns. Are we supposed to think that this is really a novel of the Apocalypse, or merely a case of mass hysteria produced by a handful of weak and self-centered misfits? Shirley Jackson never answers. For more of my review, check out my blog,

  • Sarah Kingston
    2019-04-06 05:52

    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 for the end. The body of the novel is an exploration of what would happen in that waiting time, while the world goes on beyond the walls. The book manages to be a brilliant satire about the dissonance between the modern world and the concept of landed gentry, while maintaining a genuinely spooky sense of doom and gloom. I loved the image of Mrs Halloran roaming the darkened halls of the old house, wearing a crown on her head to demonstrate that she was the leader of the new human race. And Fancy, the girl child with sociopathic tendencies who seems to be at the heart of the whole plot, playing with her 'dolls house'. Each of the characters in the house was perfectly individual and well-formed, despite the short length of this novel. I think this may be my second favourite Jackson novel thus far.

  • Robert
    2019-04-07 05:51

    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 that The End is truly nigh, though there are indeed supernatural signs throughout that bad things are brewing, and a mysterious, terrible storm arrives right on schedule the night that The End has been predicted. The story concludes on a fittingly ambiguous note. Jackson once again proves her mastery of dark social comedy (there are passages and dialogue that are laugh out loud funny) mixed with a sense of foreboding and mystery. It was fun to revisit this very entertaining, rather cynical novel - hadn't read it in years. I give it a solid 4 out of 5 Shirleys.

  • Laila (BigReadingLife)
    2019-04-21 03:59

    Really a 3.5, but rounding up to 4 because it's Shirley Jackson, and she's just the coolest. Does not approach the grandeur of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, though.For a novel about the (possible) approach of the End of the World, this was way funnier than I expected. Just bizarre. Review to come on Big Reading Life, as this is one of my RIP Challenge choices.

  • Joan Kerr
    2019-03-30 02:59

    Oh, how I loved this book.I’d been put off reading Shirley Jackson by descriptions like the one in the book’s blurb: “apocalyptic terror”, “gothic horror and shuddering suspense”. Well, I must be a very cool customer, then. I didn’t find any terror or horror here. What I found was a kind of Henry James with a sense of humour, a playful, Ghormegastian fantastical spirit, the undertone menace of Pinter, and the cool elegance of style and thought of Jane Austen. I’ll be reading a lot more Shirley Jackson. She’s well-known in America, but in Australia she certainly hasn’t the profile she deserves; perhaps it’s because she’s been classified in the horror genre rather than in literary fiction, where she belongs.In a gilded, magnificent house surrounded by a wall to keep the hoi polloi out live the Halloran family: Mrs Halloran, who may or may not have pushed her own son Lionel down the stairs, her crippled husband Richard, deep in his second childhood, her daughter-in-law Maryjane, considered rather common, Maryjane and Lionel’s brutal young daughter Fancy, and Richard’s sister, the never-married Fanny. Essex, a sardonic young man (a touch of Pinter here) is supposed to be cataloguing the library, and then there’s Miss Ogilvie, the classic timid governess treated with benign contempt. Mrs Halloran has just announced that she longer needs Essex or Miss Ogilvie and is planning to send Maryjane away but keep Fancy with her, and house Fanny (quite comfortably) in the old tower, when Fanny has a nightmarish experience in the garden. A sudden mist descends, she is completely lost, and when she blunders up against the marble statues they are warm to the hand and seem alive. Then her dead father’s voice booms out of the mist:"Frances, there is danger. Go back to the house. Tell them…..From the sky and from the ground and from the sea there is danger; tell them in the house. There will be black fire and red water and the earth turning and screaming; this will come…Tell them in the house that they will be saved. Do not let them leave the house; say to them: Do not fear, the father will guard the children." (26)By some cunningly-induced suspension of disbelief, we don’t question it when the members of the household gradually come to believe in Fanny’s prophecy of doom, each of them responding in their characteristic way. Silly Maryjane says, “What I don’t see is how it will help my asthma. Lionel used to rub my ankles,” and Mrs Halloran says, “Authority is of some importance to me. I will not be left behind when creatures like Aunt Fanny and her brother are introduced into a new world. I must plan to be there.” (41)Mrs Willow, an old friend of Mrs Halloran, and her two daughters turn up to stay and are drawn into the preparations for the cataclysm that only the inhabitants of the Halloran house are going to survive. Mrs Willow is a wonderful creation, a louche version of Madame Merle in Portrait Of A Lady:"Anyway, it’s money we need, as if there was ever anything else. I don’t figure there’s any way you can come right out and give us some, but people as rich as you are must know other people as rich as you are, and somewhere along the line there must be someone you can help us get a dime out of. Marriage would be best, of course; we might as well aim high while we’re about it. It better be Belle, though; she’s prettier and if you tell her anything enough times she’ll do it eventually. Besides, if Belle married money the chances are good I could ease a little of it out of her; with Julia, I could whistle."(51) News of the prophecy of doom comes to the local True Believers society, and Mrs Halloran has a visit from them:The leader of the True Believers was a lady of indeterminate shape, but vigorous presence, perhaps fortified by the silent presence of Liliokawani, queen in Egypt. She swept into Mrs Halloran’s ballroom with the air of one testing the floor for durability; she was wearing a purple dress which presumably fit her, and a fur boa of color and fluff. Behind her came a second, also purple, lady, whose hair was red and, behind her, a man whose determined majesty was most convincing; he had magnificent hair, which suffered a little by comparison with the leader’s fluffy fur and he wore perhaps out of deference, a white waistcoat. At the very last came a withered little lady, peering. (90)But the True Believers have a different vision of the future (ascending to Saturn in a spaceship, first having prepared by eschewing liquor, meat and all types of metal fastenings), and the two groups part ways.It’s very funny, but we never lose sight of the message engraved on the sundial, What is this world? and the lines that follow it in the original poem, which Essex quotes more than once:"What is this world? What asketh man to have? Now with his love, now in his colde grave, Allone, withouten any companye."It’s a world in which the natural condition is to be alone, even in families and relationships.“Reality,” Essex said, “Reality. What is real, Aunt Fanny”?“The truth,” said Aunt Fanny at once.“Mrs Willow, what is real?”“Comfort,” said Mrs Willow.“Miss Ogilvie, what is real?”“Oh, dear.” Miss Ogilvie looked for help from Mrs Willow to Julia. “I couldn’t really say, not having had that much experience. Well…food, I guess.”“Maryjane,” said Essex, “what is reality?”“What?” Maryjane stared with her mouth open. “You mean, something real, like something not in the movies?” (58) So knowing, so elegant and so funny. Marvellous.

  • Halley Sutton
    2019-04-16 22:46

    HILARIOUS. The party scene is one of the funniest scenes I've ever read. Shauna, it would be worth you reading it for that chapter alone.