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The Elementals by Michael McDowell

The Elementals (original 1981; edition 2014)

by Michael McDowell (Author), Michael Rowe (Introduction)

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3172254,357 (3.83)20
Something terrifying waits in the decaying Victorian house on the coast, something that has haunted two men since they were children, something that may be ready to kill...again.
Title:The Elementals
Authors:Michael McDowell (Author)
Other authors:Michael Rowe (Introduction)
Info:Valancourt Books (2014), 230 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Elementals by Michael McDowell (Author) (1981)


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English (21)  German (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
When Marian Savage from Mobile, Alabama dies, family and friends gather at St. Jude Thaddeus to celebrate her life. All went as expected until the corpse's son buried a dagger through her mother's dead heart. Then, this Southern Gothic novel became weird!

The Savages and the McCrays have been friends for many years, especially the recently deceased and the matriarch of the McCray family, the alcoholic Big Barbara. Before her son and 13-year-old granddaughter, Luker and India return to NY, the agree to accompany the Savages to Beldame, property long owned by the Savages and McCray on an isolated spit of Mobile Bay. The property includes two grey, weather-beaten Victorian home owned by the two families and a similarly shaped abandoned house partially interred in shifting, encroaching sand. India, fascinated withe the abandoned house, borrows her father's camera to take shots of the building slowly being buried by the sand dunes. While taking the photos, she views various phantasmagoria emerging from the sand.

One reviewer referred to Michael McDowell as the "master of place." I could not agree more. When one envisions a Gothic novel, the trite phrase, "it was a dark and stormy night" comes to mind. However, this author creates the same mood during a sweltering summer in Alabama. If you want a horror book to read this October, I would recommend this one. ( )
  John_Warner | Oct 18, 2019 |
This book was written in 1981 and is sent on the gulf coast of Alabama. It involves a family who have summer Victorian homes on the beach, two are occupied by family, the third is empty and is being engulfed by sand. This is a Southern family who have money. It starts out with a funeral that is sparsely attended and concluded by a son stabbing the corpse (his mother) with a knife and we come to find out this is tradition that started to assure that the dead are truly dead.
Is this a ghost story, not really. But there is a saying, "Savage mothers eat their children up!"
Marian Savage -- the deceased mother
Dauphin Savage son of Marian and his wife Leigh
McCrays (Leigh's fmaily) - mother Big Barbara, brother Luker, and his 13-year-old daughter India -Odessa Red, black, employed servant

The family goes down to the homes on the coast to get away, it is hot and isolated. This is considered horror and specifically Gothic horror with a whole lot of surreal. Fits the "evil house" category. The author, Michael McDowell (1950-1999) is perhaps best-known for writing the screenplays for Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas!

Could have had more development of what the Elementals were. I listened to the audio of this one. ( )
  Kristelh | Aug 18, 2019 |
Slow moving and oddly not scary. Creepy and a bit gross in spots. The family relations are all strange and canted. I wanted more resolution though - where the elementals came from, what they were doing...why there, why that family? Too many loose ends. ( )
  Bookmarque | Aug 15, 2019 |
Really really awesome read. Some genuinely scarey imagery throughout.
The issue I had with the racism surrounding Odessa was addressed sufficiently in the final few chapters; enough for me to lay the thought to rest, remembering, too, that it is an older-ish book. ( )
  Zaccer | Jan 2, 2019 |
Really really awesome read. Some genuinely scarey imagery throughout.
The issue I had with the racism surrounding Odessa was addressed sufficiently in the final few chapters; enough for me to lay the thought to rest, remembering, too, that it is an older-ish book. ( )
  Zaccer | Jan 2, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
The tone McDowell takes for The Elementals is, at first glance, anachronistically slow and courtly for its time-period, relying on creepy misdirection and a sort of black comedy of manners rather than short, sharp shocks for its overall impact. As the book continues, however, its atmosphere builds to a close, hot pitch of febrile discomfort; McDowell never sets a foot wrong, choosing each word with nasty care and maintaining a cruel distance from his protagonists throughout, which allows them to cocoon themselves within a self-defeating shell of disbelief and indifference, then watches the consequences of their inaction evolve without comment, let alone sympathy.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McDowell, MichaelAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bray, R. C.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To lead us farther into darkness, and quite to lose us in this maze of Error . . . the Devil maketh men believe that apparitions, and such as confirm his existence are either deceptions of sight, or melancholy depravements of phansie. -- Sir Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica
In memory of James and Mildred Mulkey
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In the middle of a desolate Wednesday afternoon in the last sweltering days of May, a handful of mourners were gathered in the church dedicated to St. Jude Thaddeus in Mobile, Alabama.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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