Post #55: The House of Dies Drear

The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton

Post number fifty-five is for Virginia Hamilton's The House of Dies Drear, another required book for my Fantasy Lit course. To be honest, I don't know why we read this; I know she wanted to get books that featured non-white characters, which this one does, but it doesn't (to me) fit the fantasy genre in the slightest. The book is billed as a ghost story, but to me that fits under a different category than fantasy. I dunno. Guess I'll have to see what she says in the intro to this book during our discussion.

Slight spoilerish thoughts follow.









I'm not completely sure when this book is set (it was written in 1970), but the book starts out on a small farmstead-type place in North Carolina and moves to Ohio, where the Small family has just decided to move. Dies Drear, from the title, was a white abolitionist who helped slaves move through the Underground Railroad. He was murdered, along with two slaves, back prior to the Civil War, and ever since his house has been classed as "haunted". Thomas, the main character, is the son of a college history professor who wants to move into the house purely for its history; he doesn't believe in ghosts or other supernatural goings-on, so thinks the superstitions are ridiculous. Thomas, on the other hand, is thrilled that they'll be living in a "haunted" house. So he, his mother, twin brothers and father are going to rent the house. The only person on the land is the caretaker, Mr. Pluto, named for the Roman god of Death of the same name. It's not his real name, just a nickname, but it fits him quite well.

There are some strange things that happen almost immediately after Thomas and his family move into the house, and it was fun to read along with Thomas as he discovered them and tried to methodically put things together to get them to make sense. He's quite the logical thinker, and it's fun to read along as he analyzes things and figures things out. There was one sort of WTF moment, though, when Thomas randomly loses his temper with this father; it seems to come out of the blue, and while you get why he's mad when it happens, there's absolutely no build up of the emotions that would support such an outburst. It was the one very strange moment in the entire book, especially because prior to that point, Thomas never once commented about that aspect of his father.

There were lots of twists and turns in this book, which I enjoyed. I won't go into any other details because I don't want to spoil the story or the surprises. Needless to say, if you read it, I think you'll understand why I said what I said about it not really being a fantasy book. It just really doesn't fit that genre. That being said, I enjoyed the book. It was interesting enough to keep me engaged and turning the pages; I wanted to see how things would work out, and was pleased with the ending. It was worth a read, if nothing else.

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