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The Other ~ A Capsule Book Review

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The Other ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp

The Other is a gothic horror novel by actor-turned-writer Thomas Tryon (1926-1991) that has become something of an American classic and has sold millions of copies. It is set in 1935 in a small Connecticut town.

The Perry family has had more than its share of tragedy. The father died accidentally when a trap door fell on him as he was going down stairs to a cellar. His widow, Alexandra, is fluttery and nervous and can’t leave her room. A visiting cousin, named Russell, falls on a pitchfork concealed in hay while playing in the barn and dies. A neighbor woman dies mysteriously and her body isn’t discovered for a week. A newborn baby disappears and a frantic search is underway to find her. Alexandra is badly injured when she falls down the stairs. What is going on here?

Niles and Holland are twins, age thirteen. Alexandra is their mother and Ada, Alexandra’s mother, is their grandmother. Ada is the matriarch of the family. She is a Russian immigrant and speaks with an accent. She brings superstitions with her from the old country. She teaches Holland and Niles a game of transference in which they imagine they are something or someone other than themselves. This game of transference is an important plot point.

Even though Holland and Niles shared the same womb for nine months, they are very different. Holland is cruel and sadistic. He enjoys hurting and killing people and animals. Niles is just the opposite. He is a ray of sunshine and a help to his shut-in mother and his elderly Russian grandmother. Niles worships Holland. The good drawn to the bad. A moth to flame.

The Other is a breezy and clever (you might say, gimmicky) 288 pages and full of atmosphere. Can you guess the secret of The Others? If you can’t, the secret is revealed about three-quarter of the way through the novel. It has to do with twins Holland and Niles and the game of transference their grandmother teaches them. Holland gets what he deserves, but does angelic Niles deserve what he gets? It is, in a way, a story about mental illness.

Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp

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