A House at the Bottom of a Lake

March 29, 2017 at 5:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

houseA House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

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I haven’t read Bird Box. Yet. It’s on my list, based on good reviews, and the fact that it’s horror, but I haven’t made my way to it. A House at the Bottom of a Lake might make me move it up my list.

This novella is horror, because there are some elements to it that make you wonder what’s real and what’s imagined, but to classify it strictly as horror would be a disservice to the story. It’s really a story about first love, told against the backdrop of a house a young couple discovers at the bottom of a lake.

Malerman captures the two main characters well. His story stays focused on the two of them. Occasionally, another character might pop up in the story, but the only two people who matter in this story are James and Amelia. The book opens with their awkward meeting, continues to their awkward first date, and then starts to take shape once they find something to open up about — the house. From there, their relationship develops, and as it does, so does the house.

The story is unnerving without being explicit. Malerman does a great job creating atmosphere, and showing things that aren’t graphic or horrifying, but certainly show that things aren’t right. It’s slightly off-kilter, and Malerman maintains that feeling in his narrative by jumping between his two main characters’ points of view without making a clean break. At first, I thought the style was a detriment to the story; later I realized it was supporting it.

I like horror done right. By that I mean I want a story that gives you a shiver, not one that shocks you with how graphic it is. In some ways, “done right” means that it will appeal to people who aren’t fans of horror, since the horror will be subtle enough to create that chill while telling a different kind of story around it. A House at the Bottom of a Lake is horror done right.

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