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Book: The House With A Clock In Its Walls

January 29, 2008
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(Sorry, there may be a flurry of Bellairs reviews coming up… I’m on a tear and want to post about each, but I’ll make them short)

So, if “…The Warlock’s Tomb” was a fine story in 2-D black-and-white, then “The House With a Clock In Its Walls” was an excellent story in 3-D, full color, and stereo sound. Within three pages of this book I noticed the difference — this was Bellairs’ first of his YA books and it was originally intended to be an adult book. I can completely tell that it was intended for a more sophisticated audience — it was very witty, wry, scary, ominous and macabre — but also just a great story, full developed and complete. No unanswered questions (as in the Warlock book).

In short: Lewis Barnavelt, a recent orphan, goes to live with his kooky uncle (who may or may not be a white-magic warlock himself) in a huge quirky spooky mansion in a quaint small town. The house has a clock hidden somewhere within its walls — you can hear it ticking at night, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, sometimes softly, and sometimes thunderously. They suspect it means nothing good, since the previous owner was a wicked man who plotted the end of the world. Also, there are evil spirits raised from the dead, pre-teen social heartache, and lots of chocolate-chip cookies.

Sounds great, right? It is great.

Loved, loved this book. The illustrations by Edward Gorey were so wonderful and really added to the atmosphere of the book.

The author of “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell” MUST have read this book, because I found quite a few corresponding references — or there is a broader pool of knowledge about these things than I realized. Lots of the magical references were the same, and a certain part of the story (which I’ve totally forgotten right now and don’t feel like getting up to locate) was almost exactly like another part of Jonathan Strange.

Anyway. I loved all the characters — Uncle Jonathan (see, there’s another!) is the best quirky uncle you could imagine; Mrs. Zimmermann is spunky and shrewd, the perfect friend and neighbor; and Lewis is the timid little kid inside all of us — he wants to be good and brave and courageous (and he is — only he doesn’t know it), but he is picked on by bullies and sometimes does things he’s not supposed to do (oh, like raise the dead).

I expected the next book in the series, “The Figure In The Shadows” to also be this good, since it was written on the tails of “Clock.” Alas, no. See next review!

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