edward gorey the house with a clock in its walls feature

A 1973 Book That’s Perfect For Harry Potter Fans!

***

ON OUR BOOKSHELVES

***

NOVEL: The House with a Clock in its Walls

AUTHOR: John Bellairs

YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1973

REVIEW:

I loved this book when I was a kid. I’m not sure exactly how I came to own a copy—I believe it was a birthday or Christmas gift.  (I always was a voracious reader, and my relatives knew it.) My paperback copy had a black cover with a spooky black silhouette of the titular house, which was haunted by a large and ghastly green face. Inside there were delightful illustrations by Edward Gorey (I didn’t know who he was at the time, but his style is impossible to miss—I definitely knew it was the same person who had done The Shrinking of Treehorn): creepy, somewhat thrilling, and appealingly odd. And the story was great. I’d now call it a gothic fantasy young adult novel (if I had to categorize it), but back then it was simply a terrific book, one I read repeatedly.

***

I’d rather forgotten all about it, until fairly recently when I was trying to pick out a gift for a friend’s son who was turning ten, when I realized that The House with a Clock in its Walls would be just the thing.

Confession time: I not only bought him a copy, but I bought myself one, too. It was one of the better impulse purchases I’ve made lately. Buying a paperback (or a Kindle edition) doesn’t cost much more than a fancy drink at Starbucks.

***

Let’s just say that if you like Harry Potter, you will like this one. Lewis Barnavelt, age ten, has recently lost his parents and is sent to live with his mysterious Uncle Jonathan, who lives in an old mansion full of secret passageways, stained glass windows (which sometimes change their designs), old dusty books, dozens of clanging clocks, and fireplaces in all of the rooms. And Uncle Jonathan and his best friend and next-door neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman, have some talent with magic: in fact, he’s a wizard (although not a very accomplished one), and she’s a witch (a rather powerful one). Fortunately, they both use their talents for good; unfortunately, the former owner of the house was a wizard of an evil sort, and his evil has outlived him. Lewis has to contend both with being a new boy at school (overweight, and miserable at baseball) and involvement in a supernatural battle with ghosts to try and prevent them from bringing about Doomsday.

***

If you have a ten-year-old in your life, do him or her a favor, and introduce him to Lewis, Uncle Jonathan, and Mrs. Zimmerman. And if you don’t, make this one your next impulse purchase, anyway.

***

(I’ve just learned that there’s a film in the works, including Cate Blanchett as Mrs. Zimmerman and Jack Black as Uncle Jonathan. Color me intrigued.)

***

RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 3 1/2 Whistles

***

HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon

***

Lead-In Image (Edward Gorey Illustrations) Courtesy of Penguin Random House

***

Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com

***

ALSO ON OUR BOOKSHELVES:

A Countess Below Stairs, Eva Ibbotson

A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman

A Patchwork Planet, Anne Tyler

A Room With a View, E.M. Forster

An English Murder, Cyril Hare

An Infamous Army, Georgette Heyer

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Anne Of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon

Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan

Books for Living, Will Schwalbe

Bunker Hill, Nathan Philbrick

Burmese Days, George Orwell

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Cloudstreet, Tim Winton

Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith

Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

Diary of a Provincial Lady, E.M. Delafield

Doctor Jazz, Hayden Carruth

Ed Emberly’s Drawing Book of Animals, Ed Emberly

Endangered Pleasures, Barbara Holland

Envious Casca, Georgette Heyer

Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin

Foreign Affairs, Alison Lurie

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee

Good Poems, Garrison Keillor

Gowanus Waters, Steven Hirsch

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne

Heads in Beds, Jacob Tomsky

Here is New York, E.B. White

Hide My Eyes, Margery Allingham

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, Laurie Colwin

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

If on a winter’s night a traveler, Italo Calvino

Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

Lexicon, Max Barry

Longbourn, Jo Baker

Madeleine’s Ghost, Robert Girardi

Malice Aforethought, Frances Iles

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Jon Krakauer

Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut

My Life in France, Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

Notorious RBG, Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

One Summer: America 1927, Bill Bryson

Out of the Blackout, Robert Bernard

Parnassus on Wheels & The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley

Plotted: A Literary Atlas, Andrew DeGraff

Possession, A.S. Byatt

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle…and Other Modern Verse, Stephen Dunning, Edward Lueders, and Hugh Smith

Ringworld, Larry Niven

Rose Madder, Stephen King

Sanditon, Jane Austen and Another Lady

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Carlo Rivelli

Straying from the Flock: Travels in New Zealand, Alexander Elder

Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

The Dancer of Izu, Kawabata Yasunari

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, Oliver Sacks

The Martian, Andy Weir

The Missing Piece, Shel Silverstein

The Modern Kids, Jona Frank

The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah

The Mother & Child Project, Hope Through Healing Hands (ed.)

The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel (illustrator), Maurice Sendak (introduction)

The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats

The Swans of Fifth Avenue, Melanie Benjamin

The Tender Bar, J.R. Moehringer

The Translator, Nina Schuyler

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories, Saki

The Weird World of Wes Beattie, John Norman Harris

The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

The Women in Black, Madeleine St John

They Call Me Naughty Lola, David Rose

Thing Explainer, Randall Munroe

Ways of Seeing, John Berger

What If?, Randall Munroe

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi

You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life, Eleanor Roosevelt

Up At the Villa, W. Somerset Maugham

84, Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff