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Thursday, September 10, 2009

“Audrey’s Door” by Sarah Langan (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Sarah Langan Website
Order “Audrey’s DoorHERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “The Missing

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Sarah Langan is the author of three horror novels: “The Keeper”, the Bram Stoker Award-winning “The Missing”, and her newest effort “Audrey’s Door” which has already been optioned for film adaptation by Dimension Films (Sin City, The Mist, The Road). Sarah has received her MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University and is also a Master’s candidate in Environmental Toxicology from New York University. She is currently working on her fourth novel, “Empty Houses”.

PLOT SUMMARY: When 35-year-old architect Audrey Lucas moves into a shockingly affordable apartment building in Manhattan, she’s determined to make a fresh start, leaving behind her mother’s debilitating bipolar disorder, her own struggles with OCD, and a tangled relationship.

But it soon becomes obvious that something isn’t right, and it’s not just her eccentric, aging neighbors. Audrey uncovers a terrible secret—that a horrific act occurred in the very place she’s now calling home—and its lasting effects are exerting a power over her she’s not sure she can control...

CLASSIFICATION:Audrey’s Door” is a modern haunted house story that, in Sarah Langan’s own words: “was particularly inspired by Shirley Jackson’s Haunting on Hill House, Stephen King’s The Shining, Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, Roland Topor’s The Tenant, the films of Roman Polanski, and Edward Rob Ellis’ The Epic of New York City: A Narrative History.” —from the Preface

FORMAT/INFO:Audrey’s Door” is 432 pages long divided over five Parts, an Epilogue, and forty-eight numbered/titled chapters. Narration is in the third-person, mainly via the protagonist Audrey Lucas, but a few of the chapters are dedicated to other characters including Audrey’s boyfriend/fiance Saraub and Audrey’s boss Jill Sidenschwandt. “Audrey’s Door” is self-contained.

September 29, 2009 marks the North American Mass Market Paperback publication of “Audrey’s Door” via HarperCollins.

ANALYSIS:Audrey’s Door” is the third novel written by Sarah Langan, an exciting new horror author who I was first introduced to in 2007 with her book “The Missing”. I really enjoyed reading “The Missing”, and as a result, have been looking forward to her new novel. Unfortunately, “Audrey’s Door” was somewhat of a letdown, although I can’t really blame the author. You see, I’ve read and seen so many haunted house books and movies over the years that I’ve just grown bored with the whole setup. And that’s what “Audrey’s Door” is . . . an overly familiar haunted house story inspired by such classics as Shirley Jackson’s Haunting on Hill House, Stephen King’s The Shining, and Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby.

Fortunately, there’s much more to Sarah’s book than a worn-out plot device, and it is these elements that make “Audrey’s Door” still worth picking up. First and foremost is the superb characterization. One of the things that most impressed me in “The Missing” was the author’s ability to write believable characters. In “Audrey’s Door”, not only has Sarah retained that ability, she’s improved upon it...dramatically. In short, the characters in “Audrey’s Door”—which includes Audrey, her boyfriend/fiance Saraub, boss Jill Sidenschwandt, neighbor Jayne, and the weird tenants of The Breviary—are startlingly life-like, thus making it easy to become invested in their lives, which in turn strengthens the horror that they experience.

On a related note, I was also really impressed with the amount of time and detail (through various newspaper articles littered throughout the novel) that was spent on developing The Breviary—a Manhattan luxury apartment building established in 1861—and the religion Chaotic Naturalism. On the flipside though, because Sarah does spend so much time developing her characters and The Breviary, the book tends to meander a bit, especially the first couple of hundred pages...

Another reason why “Audrey’s Door” is worth picking up is the prose which, like the characterization, just keeps getting better:

No thinking creature can tolerate captivity. In the presence of just four white walls, the mind invents. Stagnant air and locked doors skew perception. Eighty-degree angles turn obtuse. Holes form between joists where bricks no longer neatly meet. Smiles become sneers; love skinned leaves the skeleton of lust; and too much sleep unmoors its dreamer. Without the possibility of freedom, the rituals of living are abandoned. Bathing, eating, cleaning, and even language are lost. Things fall apart, and in the vacuum of their absence, madness rears.”

As far as the horror elements, “Audrey’s Door” relies mostly on pyschological chills rather than gory violence. Plus, even though the book features a haunted apartment building, ghosts, a doorway to somewhere terrible, and other paranormal ingredients, it is the more mundane real-world problems that the characters are dealing with like love, cancer, and family that prove to be most frightening...

CONCLUSION: In the end, I highly recommend “Audrey’s Door” to anyone who is a fan of haunted house stories. For those who are not, I would still recommend the book because “Audrey’s Door” is an extremely well-written novel that features compelling chills and even more compelling characters. As for myself, I may have been disappointed with the book compared to 2007’s “The Missing”, but Sarah Langan herself continues to impress me with her growth as an author, and I can’t wait to see what she does with her next novel...


Harry Markov said...

Now I love me some haunted houses. I just like the gothic feel of it for I associate such myths and urban legends with gothic scenery and atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

I love haunted and/or otherwise creepy houses. Especially if it's raining outside. Preferably thunderstorms.

Rachel Heston Davis
Up and Writing

Robert said...

Harry & Rachel, if you love haunted houses, then Audrey's Door might definitely be up your alley :)

Rabid Fox said...

I've only read a couple of Langan's short stories, which I enjoyed a fair bit. This novel could be a great introduction for me into her novels. Nice review.


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