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The Other by Thomas Tryon

The Other (1971)

by Thomas Tryon

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8592010,397 (3.89)89
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Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Wow! This was fantastic :-) Now I want to read more like this ... (which are suggested at the end, in the Afterword).

The beginning is kind of slow ... like a summer afternoon :-) ... and then it speeds up, to where you can't stop! It was perfect :-)

Adrianne ( )
  Adrianne_p | Jun 13, 2017 |
It's a seemingly idyllic summer in 1935, and identical twins Niles and Holland Perry play around the bucolic family farm. We see the daily activities of the farm through the eyes of the eleven year old boys. Holland is clearly the amoral mischief maker, though sympathetic Niles is often caught in their shenanigans. Niles carries a Prince Albert tobacco tin with several secret trinkets, including the Perry family ring, which came down from their grandfather, and something mysteriously wrapped in wax paper. He asks Holland to "take them back," but Holland insists "I gave them to you, they're yours now." Their cousin Russell finds the boys in the forbidden apple cellar, and promises to snitch on them.

Their mother is a recluse in her upstairs bedroom, grieving over the recent death of the boys' father in the apple cellar. Grandmother Ada, a Russian emigrant, dotes on Niles, and has taught him a psychic ability to project himself outside of his body, for example in a bird; this ability she calls "the great game."

As the summer progresses, Holland appears to play some deadly practical jokes. A pitchfork left hidden in some straw in the floor of the hayloft takes the life of their sneering cousin Russell (he leaps from the upper loft onto it) before he can betray their secret hideaway in the apple cellar. A frightening magic trick for nearby spinster Mrs. Rowe causes her to have a fatal heart attack. After Russell's funeral, Niles' mother finds the ring, and the severed finger that is wrapped in wax paper. That night she demands Niles to tell her how he has taken possession of father's ring. "Holland gave it to me," he answers. She's shocked, and asks him when he gave it to Niles. "In the parlor, after our birthday," he answers. Holland appears, whispering, "Give it back!" After a struggle on the landing over the ring, she falls down the stairs and is rendered partially paralyzed.

Ada finds Holland's harmonica at Mrs. Rowe's house after her body is discovered. Finding Niles in church, transfixed by the image of "The Angel of a Better Day," she asks Niles about Mrs. Rowe, and he identifies Holland as the culprit. Ada drags Niles to the family graveyard and demands that Niles face the truth: Holland has been dead since their birthday in March, when he fell down the well. He was thought to have been buried with his father's ring ... which we know to be in Niles' possession. At home, Ada blames herself for teaching Niles "the game," but insists that he not play it anymore. But Niles continues to talk with Holland. Holland helps Niles to remember how he got his father's ring: Holland insisted that he cut his finger off while he lay in his casket in the parlor. In the stairway, Ada hears Niles whispering....

More tragedy strikes the family. During a storm, Rider and Torrie's newborn baby is kidnapped, a copycat of the recent Lindbergh tragedy. (News about the trial is seen in a newspaper, and Niles has a crayon portrait of Bruno Hauptmann in his bedroom.) As the adults mount a search for the baby, Niles sneaks off to the barn. Ada suspects that Niles knows more than he's letting on. When she discovers Niles in the barn, pleading for Holland to tell him where the baby is, she fears that Niles is beyond hope. She insists that he, Niles, has done all these things, but he refuses to believe her. The baby is found, drowned in one of Mr. Angelini's pickle barrels, and they apprehend the (innocent) handyman. Returning to the barn and shutting the door, Ada hears Niles in the apple cellar where the boys like to hide, whispering with Holland. She empties a can of gasoline into the apple cellar, and, clutching an oil lantern, dives into the cellar, starting a cataclysmic fire.

As autumn begins, the ruins of the barn are being cleared. The camera zooms in on a padlock that has been cut open with a bolt-cutter. We find that in spite of the fire, Niles is alive and well. His mother is a catatonic invalid, Ada has died in the barn fire, and no one knows Niles's terrible secret.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Being an identical twin can be murder. Just ask Niles Perry, a well-mannered thirteen-year-old whose twin brother Holland possesses a sadistic streak and a penchant for causing deadly ‘accidents.’ Niles both loves, fears, and is in intense awe of his enigmatic brother, but all is not what it seems in Thomas Tryon’s Gothic psychological horror novel.

I had a rocky start with this novel, because I kept on wondering how Niles could not suspect his brother of wrongdoing. I was relieved to find, however, that the (cleverly wrought) twist midway through the book rendered these concerns obsolete. If Niles seems outrageously naïve, that just makes the revelation all the more effective.

Novelist Thomas Tryon evokes the homey mystique of a 30’s Connecticut farming town. Pequot Landing, as it so happens, is an idyllic place to grow up for children who are independent and reasonably well-adjusted, because of the freedom such a locale offers (kids can go wherever they want and do whatever they want, within reason,) but the stifling gossip of the town ladies also makes it important to tread carefully while within earshot of anyone who might decide they want your family problems as fodder for discussion.

For the Perry’s, for which insanity seems to run in the family, the continual stream of hearsay is never-ending. If you can get by Tryon’s penchant for long, elaborate, needlessly wordy sentences, ‘The Other’ might prove to be your new favorite creepy-cool summer read. You might be surprised that despite the fact that it was published in 1971, it’s aged quite well and doesn’t seem watered-down in terms of horror by jaded modern standards.

There are deaths a-plenty in “The Other,” and the one that bothered me most (even more than the particularly taboo murder at the end) was the demise of elderly widow Mrs. Rowe. Damn it she just wanted to have some tea and lemonade with the local children! Why must the lonely old bird be treated so? :_(

“The Other” makes you think about what people do to keep their loved ones out of the mental health system, and how that initial act of mercy can prove to be destructive later on. Doesn’t the boys’ Russian grandmother, Ada, know her grandson is a raving lunatic? Of course she does. But she refuses to anticipate the consequences of keeping such a boy at home with her, and her naiveté is punished tenfold.

I’ve heard of people whose family members continually lashed out at them; people who’s loved ones had to be locked in their room at night. In the end, the decision lies with the caregiver, but sometimes it’s not only easier, but kinder just to let go. This is an extreme version of a situation many people deal with- the seemingly impossible challenge of loving and caring for a severely emotionally disturbed child.

Ultimately, I think Tryon is too hard on old Ada. Yes, it was her ‘game’ that led to much of the insanity in the first place. But she is only human. And If the game had never came to be? What? Tragedy may have been avoided, but sociopathy and madness still ran thick in the Perry’s blood. While Ada’s final act seemed somewhat out of character, it was a decision born of extreme desperation, not evil or cruelty.

Although I found Niles annoying throughout (though he seemed surprisingly less so after I found out the twist,) I thought ‘The Other’ was a chillingly rendered, deliciously Gothic read. I love those kind of Gothic stories involving family secrets and sequestered craziness, so this was right up my alley. Now I want to rent the movie. ( )
1 vote filmbuff1994 | Jun 11, 2015 |
I first read this book when I was in university. I must have taken it out of the library,or otherwise lost my copy, because when I wanted to read it again about three of four years ago I needed to buy a copy. To my dismay, I could only buy a used paperback copy for $62! Last year I searched Amazon again - and lo and behold - it has been re-released by New York Review Books for 14.95.

I enjoyed the book just as much as the first time. A Gothic novel set in rural New England, it scared the pants off me again, not in an overt shocking way, but with an insidious creeping of fear. There is always an element of horror when it involves psychopathic children, and Tryn does a good job of juxtaposing innocence and cruelty. A great book from a great writer. ( )
1 vote BBcummings | Dec 24, 2014 |
Good and evil twins cause havoc for their family and the small Connecticut town where they live.

Wow. This one was a tough one to rate and review. On the one hand, I appreciate the pure, over-the-top schlock of this story. If I hadn't already known this was published in the early '70s, I certainly would have deduced it. It fits right in with the early wave of pulp horror that the 1970s came to epitomize, along with novels like Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist. Tryon stuffs everything he can think of in here. There are twists upon twists, gothic elements, the absurd, and the outright shocking. There was one scene that was at once so insane and gruesome, and yet so unexpected, that it literally turned my stomach.

It's not a perfect book, by any means, or even a perfect horror book. Tryon's writing can be convoluted, excessively wordy, and frustratingly vague. There is a sense of having read this kind of story before, but done much more cleanly (perhaps I'm thinking of We Have Always Lived in the Castle or even The Turn of the Screw). There are some great moments, but taken all together, it's almost too much.

Fans of horror or anyone who's interested in the development of the genre will want to read this. But I'm afraid The Other dates itself. It's a fun book, if you don't take it too seriously, but is it a timeless book? I don't think so. ( )
2 vote sturlington | Aug 6, 2014 |
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How old do you think Miss DeGroot really is?
Thomas Tryon is one of the best-kept secrets of modern horror fiction, and one of its great losses. (Introduction)
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HORROR & GHOST STORIES. 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 his parents proud. The Perrys live in the bucolic New England town their family settled in centuries ago, and indeed, the extended family has gathered at their farm this summer to mourn the death of the twins' father in an unfortunate accident. Mrs. Perry never quite recovered from the shock and stays sequestered 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. "The Other" is a landmark of psychological horror, part of a lineage that includes the works of James Hogg, Robert Louis Stevenson, Shirley Jackson, and Peter Straub.… (more)

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2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 1590175832, 1590175980

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