Thursday, March 15, 2007

In Which Our Heroine Goes Back to the House with the Clock In Its Walls

When I was about 8 or 9, I read a book called "The House With the Clock In Its Walls." I remember it as being fairly long, and I also remember it as being absolutely terrifying. It was my first encounter with a scary book, and given that I lived in an old house with a coal bin (which featured heavily in the story) I spent far too much time sneaking round the house at night if I had to get up for something with my ear pinned to the wall, desperately listening for sounds of Doomsday. Took me ages to get over it.

Then, a few years back, my friend Michaela came round and was doing a PhD in children's literature focusing on the classic gothic style horror novel. But she hadn't heard of this book, so I bought her a copy as I popped her on the plane back to Britain.

I mentioned this to her when I stayed with her last week. "It is in the room you're staying in!" she commented. I didn't think I could read it again. I mean, I know I'm 36 now, and that it was a children's book, but sometimes the memories are just too strong.

But it was night, and I was in bed, and I caved. It didn't take long to read the book, but it didn't matter. The text itself was no where near as scary as I remembered, although it was very well written, but that was mostly because I knew what was going to happen, so the air of suspense was a bit lost.

It didn't matter, though. I woke up in the middle of the night because I heard something, and immediately was ready to sneak around with my ear to the wall and listen. And I knew for a fact that these people do not have a coal bin in their house. Or even a cellar.

This sense of apprehension wasn't helped by our trip out the next day. Where did we go? I'll tell you. But first, a word of warning: do not hang out with people who study gothic literature. It will only give you many sleepless nights. For example, it is now four days later and I'm still up at three in the morning. So brace yourself. Where did we go?


What is Whitby famous for? Two things.

1) Fish and chips (and they are good); and

2) Dracula. Now I've never read the book myself, but it seems that now I have to in order to fully appreciate this little trip. Apparently Whitby is where Dracula makes landfall in Britain, before going to London and wreaking havoc. You can picture it. Get a good fog in that town, sweeping through the ruined Abbey on a cliff top, tranquil fishing boats in the harbour, surrounded by incredibly lonesome moors. Criminy. All very beautiful until you mention the Dracula factor.

I think I'm going to have to stick to much happier books for a while. Something like Frog and Toad Are Friends, or Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

Right after I read Dracula.


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