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Burnt Offerings (1973)

by Robert Marasco

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4792443,792 (3.69)30
One of the scariest haunted house novels ever written, "Burnt Offerings" chronicles the story of Ben and his family renting a house out in the New York countryside, and the horror that unfolds there. Contains new artwork, film stills, reproductions of movie posters, and more.
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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Page turning suspense!

I was expecting more then I received from this book as all the reviews I read before getting into it seemed to light up the "scare" tactic, but I wasn't scared at all. I guess it takes quite a bit to scare me, but it was still a good book as it had a lot of suspense, mystery, and there were some spooky moments, but not the "leave the light on" spooky.

Ben and Marian Rolfe want to get out of their apartment and go somewhere far away for the Summer months. Marian sees an ad to rent a mansion for a price they can not believe. When Ben and Marian go to check out the mansion, they meet the owners who seem way beyond eccentric and they seem to really want the Rolfes to stay there. There is only one exception: the Rolfes will need to take care of their mother who lives in the house. Ben and Marion along with their son and Ben's Aunt decide to pay the price and stay there for the Summer. The owners in the meantime let it be known that they will be going away themselves and the Rolfes will have access to everything in the house plus all the buildings on the property. This is where that saying comes into play "if it sounds to good to be true, then it probably is" should have weighed down upon the Rolfes, but they ignored any kind of bad feelings about the place. Marian was all for staying there, but Ben had very mixed feelings and really didn't want to stay in the mansion.

At that point on from when the owners left to the Rolfes exploring their newly acquired domain, little things start happening in the house. Marian takes it upon herself to see to the "mother", but the "mother" never makes an appearance as she stays behind a locked door and Marian has to leave food trays for the woman.

The book starts off kind of slow as the author builds the storyline and nothing really gets going strong till about midway through the book. The book picks up more of a quickened pace as more things start happening in the book, but like I said before, I never really felt scared reading it. I wasn't really happy with the ending as there was an unexpected turn of events near the end of the book, but it doesn't deter me from giving it anything less than four stars. ( )
  BookNookRetreat7 | Jul 25, 2022 |
*Partial spoilers ahead*

Robert Marasco's 1973 bestseller Burnt Offerings is a book that's difficult to review without wandering into spoiler territory, but its reputation as a classic haunted house novel is well-earned. The premise is simple: Ben and Marian Rolfe, a young couple living in a hot, cramped apartment in Queens, are anxious to get out of town for a few weeks. The Allardyces, an eccentric brother-sister pair, are offering their massive old country house for rent and the price is almost absurdly low; the only catch is that their mother is homebound and must have meals prepared for her while her children are away. Marian eagerly accepts the terms; Ben is skeptical, but decides to go along. With their eight-year-old son David and Ben's elderly Aunt Elizabeth in tow, the Rolfes lock up their apartment for the summer and look forward to relaxing far from the pressures of the city.

But, virtually from the start, their getaway is not relaxing. Already tightly wound and very fussy about her collection of antiques at home, Marian becomes utterly obsessed with the treasure trove of antiques in the Allardyce mansion...and with the house itself. (She is especially preoccupied with Mrs. Allardyce's sitting room. Marian prepares the old woman's meals every day and leaves them just outside her bedroom door, but--though the food sometimes is partially eaten--Mrs. Allardyce never appears.) The morose forgetfulness that had begun to trouble Ben in the city becomes a permanent condition for him. Strange even in the beginning, the atmosphere of the house becomes more overtly oppressive and then frightening. How will it all end? Marasco's climax does not disappoint, and along the way he imbues mundane items like a wrecked bicycle and an old pair of shattered eyeglasses with a subtle disquiet.

Not a book for fans of action-oriented horror, Burnt Offerings is intelligent and deliberately paced. As I noted earlier, it has earned its reputation. ( )
  Jonathan_M | Jul 13, 2022 |
One of the five iconic American haunted house (a malevolent dwelling, not a residence for spooks) novels. Clearly on the path from [b:The Haunting of Hill House|89717|The Haunting of Hill House |Shirley Jackson|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327871336s/89717.jpg|3627] to [b:The Shining|11588|The Shining (The Shining, #1)|Stephen King|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1353277730s/11588.jpg|849585]. Marasco does a great job of describing the psychological effect on the Rolfes and Aunt Elizabeth as the Allardyce house takes over their lives a little at a time. Everyone goes along until it is too late and Marian has become the focal point for/of the nebulous unseen Mrs. Allardyce The creepiness and suspense escalates (Are they ever going to get out of this?) without much overtly supernatural happening, the changes are all subtle, like in a [a:Robert Aickman|36998|Robert Aickman|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1212692401p2/36998.jpg] story.

One can see where [a:Stephen King|3389|Stephen King|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1362814142p2/3389.jpg] took the best of Marasco and [a:Shirley Jackson|13388|Shirley Jackson|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1196262589p2/13388.jpg] and melded them together in The Overlook.

The ending is for me more satisfying than Hill House or the Shining by being both more concrete than the former while less overt than the latter.

Marasco's prose is easy to read without being dumbed down, more like King, but not as lyrical or as evocative as Jackson. Drags a little towards the last third as we see the inevitable already on its way but Marasco wants to fool around with expectations (or pad a novella) a little too much without succeeding in building any more real suspense.

Anyone interested in American horror should read the five iconic haunted house novels: [b:The Haunting of Hill House|89717|The Haunting of Hill House |Shirley Jackson|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327871336s/89717.jpg|3627], [b:Burnt Offerings|897717|Burnt Offerings|Robert Marasco|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1297539225s/897717.jpg|882910], [b:The House Next Door|104217|The House Next Door|Anne Rivers Siddons|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1171509777s/104217.jpg|2886217], and [b:The Shining|11588|The Shining (The Shining, #1)|Stephen King|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1353277730s/11588.jpg|849585]. The [b:The Amityville Horror|293101|The Amityville Horror|Jay Anson|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1306079371s/293101.jpg|284389] is optional since it purports to be nonfiction (it isn't) and therefore turns out to be a fun but ultimately unsatisfying and sloppy novel. ( )
  Gumbywan | Jun 24, 2022 |
If Burnt Offerings had been written by a woman, it could have been a feminist horror novel, but as it stands, it instead feels vaguely like an indictment of a certain type of woman/wife/mother. I enjoyed reading it but didn't really find it scary or spooky, perhaps because I was a little stuck on the 1970s feel (which I also get reading The Shining). A worthwhile addition for anyone with a desire to get a sense of the history of the horror genre. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | May 4, 2022 |
Well, now I'm a little upset that Marasco didn't write a whole whack of horror novels after this one. It's a bit of a slow burn up to the horror, and the horror isn't overt, but more psychological, but it's a great tale, nonetheless.

As I went through this novel, I couldn't help but think of it as the slightly more shy older brother of Stephen King's The Shining. Similar set up, similar situations at times. The difference is, as good as Burnt Offerings is, it feels like King read it, then thought, it's good, but it could be better.

But though this has a lighter touch, and only scratches the surface where King's follow-up dug deep, it's still a great read, with excellent writing. In fact, I'd say King took some cues when it came to dialogue as well. If someone told me this was an early King novel, up until about halfway, I'd believe them.

Great novel. ( )
1 vote TobinElliott | Sep 3, 2021 |
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One of the scariest haunted house novels ever written, "Burnt Offerings" chronicles the story of Ben and his family renting a house out in the New York countryside, and the horror that unfolds there. Contains new artwork, film stills, reproductions of movie posters, and more.

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