Author: Thomas Tryon, former actor. Author of other novels including Lady and Night Magic, mostly out-of-print. New Afterword by Dan Chaon.
Genre: Horror, Literary Fiction.
Publisher Summary: Holland and Niles Perry are identical thirteen-year-old twins. They are close, close enough, almost, to read each other’s thoughts, but they couldn’t be more different. Holland is bold and mischievous, a bad influence, while Niles is kind and eager to please, the sort of boy who makes parents proud. The Perrys live in the bucolic New England town their family settled centuries ago, and as it happens, the extended clan has gathered at its ancestral farm this summer to mourn the death of the twins’ father in a most unfortunate accident. Mrs. Perry still hasn’t recovered from the shock of her husband’s gruesome end and stays sequestered in her room, leaving her sons to roam free. As the summer goes on, though, and Holland’s pranks become increasingly sinister, Niles finds he can no longer make excuses for his brother’s actions.
Thomas Tryon’s best-selling novel about a homegrown monster is an eerie examination of the darkness that dwells within everyone. It is a landmark of psychological horror that is a worthy descendent of the books of James Hogg, Robert Louis Stevenson, Shirley Jackson, and Patricia Highsmith.
The Other is a sweet little gothic horror story. The pacing and structure are a bit slow and deliberate, but a close reading is richly rewarded. This is not the book for an impatient reader who wants to hurry up and get to the good stuff, rather it’s best suited toward the reader who wants to submerse herself into a world of the author’s making. Attention to detail will pay off all along the way, and provide tasty clues to the ultimate reveal.
Read also: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, another slim volume rich with detail with a chilling, blood stilling final reveal. Shadowland by Peter Straub, a suspense novel of a more recent vintage, this shares with “The Other” an adolescent narrator and a very specific setting.
I really wanted to fall in love with this book. The twin boys who are so diametrically opposed , the unsettling New England small town, the macabre circumstances that bring this strange group of characters together – why shouldn’t this add up to a fantastic psychological horror novel? And it did – for a while. The first act is very strong, followed by a quiet (if dragging) second act. The final third, however, felt a bit like an M. Night Shyamalan twist that drags out the conclusion far past its climax. That being said, Tryon’s writing is beautiful, and he captured the feeling of those lost days of summer, when children were basically set loose to entertain themselves, in a glorious way. I am glad I read this, if for no other reason than to read his prose.
The Other completely took me by surprise. For about the first fourth of the book I was disappointed. I was a little bored and wasn’t sure if what I was reading was literary fiction or a psychological thriller as it was described.
But then the book got going and I was hooked. Full of terrifying images and twists and turns, it’s a classic psychological thriller. But it is also so much more than that. The characters were really well developed and are the kind who haunt your thoughts after you’re done reading. The ending was also a shocker and I will be re-reading it, looking for clues.
But what caught me by surprise the most was how beautifully written the book was. Considering the subject matter, Tryon did a superb job crafting prose that was so completely contradictory to what was happening in the story. Basically, it created this odd sense of beauty amid a really scary and creepy story.
If you enjoy books that are creepy, unpredictable, and beautifully written, you can’t go wrong with The Other.
I was really excited to read this book. I have read many excellent reviews and know that this book was a best seller when it was first published in 1971. A good horror book usually sucks me in and I can’t put the book down until I finish it.
Unfortunately, that was not the case with this book. It was very hard to get into. In fact, the first time I attempted to read the book I only got through the first two chapters before I had to put it down and walk away from it. The writing style is hard to follow and often times distracting. In the first chapter the author does a lot of back and forth and asking the reader questions before describing a scene. He asks about an item then proceeds to describe it. Personally, this is distracting.
On the flip side, the story itself was quite intriguing once I was able to get into it. Not suspenseful, but the shock and horror factors more than make up for it. The Other is a dark book the leads you into what is going on in characters minds and could leave you contemplating the evil that could exist in all of us and why those that chose to be evil do the things they do.
Honestly the writing style is what is keeping this book from being an A in my opinion, and it is detrimental enough that I couldn’t even make it a B.
I love horror, especially if the horror is more psychological than gory, think evil ventriloquist dummy in “Dead of Night” versus the slashed throats and hatchets to heads in the “Saw” or “Friday the 13th” films. Given that thematic and stylistic leaning, my hopes were high for Thomas Tryon’s “The Other”. Unfortunately, “The Other” is not a book I will reread (my litmus test for a great book is that I want to start back on page one once it’s finished), which is likely a result of my high expectations from the outset, my over-exposure to horror plots, and a wandering mind that is less patient with slower-moving books.
From the beginning, Tryon’s writing plants seeds of discomfort in the reader, making it clear that something isn’t quite right at the Perry house. That feeling of unease continues to develop throughout the book, escalating as more is revealed about the characters. As the story begins to take shape the characters become more dynamic, but this is a slow process.
Tryon’s flowing prose is mostly description with little dialogue, so it reads slower and requires a good attention span, which is hard to come by these days. While Tryon’s writing style is enjoyable, don’t read it when you are busy or your mind is prone to wander, because your mind will likely wander through at least the first third of this book. But even as the plot picks up and becomes more engaging, I figured out very quickly where it was going, and was disappointed when I had correctly guessed the ending. Part of the predictability could be that I have read so many horror stories, but a big part is also that this is a reprint of a book from 1971, when the plot twists used in “The Other” were more novel and unpredictable. Forty years later, it’s still a well-written, enjoyable book, but not one to seek out if you are looking for the book to get your heart racing in fear.
Read Instead: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
We Recommend it for: Slow and steady readers, lovers of prose, readers new to horror.
The Other is being re-released by New York Review Books Classics. Thanks for providing advance copies to our readers to facilitate their reviews. You can find them on Twitter and Facebook. Check out some of their other releases on their website.