Friday, January 20, 2017

The Elementals Review

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 The Elementals by Michael McDowell book review by Tomes and Tequila blog
For book club this month, my horror-movie-loving fellow dislocated-coonass neighbor Kris (whom I love, thank you) picked The Elementals by Michael McDowell, a 1981 southern-gothic supernatural horror story. 

Before I get into what a great diversion from my recent reads this was, I've gotta say sorry for the late night Instagram photo being used as my promo pic. We Interlibrary Loaned our copies of the book, and I turned mine back in before I could get a really good photo to use for the blog. Initially I thought I was going to have to "borrow" an online pic but then I remembered a few days ago I stuck a quick shot, mainly highlighting my Rumchata-laced hot chocolate, up on IG the other day so I'm using that. It's not the best photo, but it's better than nothing!!

But anyway, back to Book Clubs and Gothic Horror...

For whatever reason, I didn't really read up on this one before it arrived at the library for pick-up...and I have to admit, I kind-of judged this book by it's cover. I wasn't expecting a whole lot from this small book from the early 80's with the goofy-looking house on the front. But boy was I wrong.
This is true gothic supernatural at it's finest. You really get through about 3/4 of the book before anything "horror" comes into play. It just meanders along, because it's set in the South, with a little creepy here and another little creepy there...and then all of a sudden people are eating eyeballs and crap. 

Here's the first paragraph of the description on Goodreads, because I'm just not that talented: 
"On a split of land cut off by the Gulf, three Victorian summer houses stand against the encroaching sand. Two of the houses at Beldame are still used. The third house, filling with sand, is empty...except for the vicious horror which is shaping nightmares from the nothingness that hangs in the dank, fetid air."
The Savages and McCrays have gone to their summer houses to get out of Mobile after the death of the Savage matriarch. There has always been something about the third house at Beldame. Young India McCray is bound and determined to figure out what it is.

This is a quiet book that just keeps building. You know the kind...where you just see a shadow out of the corner of your eye...or that blurry image on a photo? And then the incidents just get closer and closer together? India won't let it go.

With the aid of Odessa, the family's hired help of many years, she sets out to not necessarily solve the mysteries of Beldame but at least figure out why it has scared her father since he was a child...and why that hall door mysteriously closed when she was peeking in the window if the house is abandoned?
There were a few passages that stuck out like sore thumbs when reading in 2017...things that probably wouldn't be put in now without an explanation. I'm pretty sure the toss-away drug comments and the casual way a thirteen year old India was around her naked father, referencing his sex-life etc, were meant to show them as bohemian New Yorkers juxtaposed against their stuffy Southern family. But it also felt odd to a modern day book club. I just kept cracking jokes about how this story would look now with cell phones....

But I really enjoyed this book. I give it a solid 4 stars, if not a 4 1/2. Maybe I'm feeling nostalgic, as it's definitely a book of it's era...because I can tell it belongs sitting on my mom's bookshelf alongside her Stephen King novels. I was sad to see that the author passed away in 1999 of an AIDS-related illness and Tabitha King was the author called in to finish his last book. I'll definitely have to look into reading a few of his other novels because this was a great return to the horror books of my childhood. (Yes, I grew up on horror...take it up with my mom)

I have really enjoyed this book club because we are picking a CRAZY variety of books to read, which I think is terrific. I tell people all the time that I will read just about anything so I really enjoy getting the chance to see what other people find enjoyable. It probably gives y'all a small case of whiplash though...

Are you a fan of horror books? If so, whose your favorite author? I grew up in a house with a book shelf encompassing an entire living room wall filled with Stephen King and other assorted horror writers, with a few other genres thrown in for fun. Let me know in the comments here or over on my Facebook page. And remember that my book giveaway is still open until January 24th, 2017 so head over to this post for all the details!!

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