The Sundial, by Shirley Jackson

As with all the Jackson books I’ve read so far, this one features some people confined in a house, strange visions, and fear of the outside world.

Aunt Fanny, of the Halloran family, has had a vision that the world will soon end. That is, it will end for anyone who is not safely inside the Halloran mansion. The rest of the family begin to believe her, and slowly descend into madness preparing for the end.

As with all Jackson novels, this is a very subtle, understated story, and you are never really sure if the characters are crazy or not, even at the end. The clickbait of the publishing world that is back-jacket blurbs may have you thinking this is a ‘terrifying’ or ‘chilling’ book about an apocalypse, but it isn’t. It is a weird, often humorous, sometimes creepy, book about a rich family that believes they are, literally, the most important people on Earth and are the only ones who will be saved when the world ends.

And it’s even worse than that, because the Halloran’s believe that anyone who is inside their house will be saved from the coming apocalypse, yet, they go out of their way to make sure the servants are all sent home early on the ‘final day’ and not told anything, they give a big party to ‘say goodbye’ to all the towns people, with no effort to invite anyone else into the house, and so on. They are looking forward to a new, empty world with only them.

While this is probably more a reflection of Jackson’s agoraphobia, I found it an interesting commentary on the rich and powerful, and how they tend to be just fine with any disaster as long as it doesn’t affect them.

A great read, but for me it was probably the least impactful of her books so far.


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