Joel Knox is a shy kid. His mother is gone, and he's sent from New Orleans to the enigmatic and crumbling mansion, Skully's Landing, to live with his father. But where the hell is his father? His cousin, Randolph, and his stepmother, Amy, are weird birds and they aren't coughing up any answers. Joel soon finds himself enamored of the mysteries surrounding Skully's Landing as well as a tomboyish girl named Idabel. And did I mention the ghostly figure in the window? What Southern Gothic tale is complete without one of those?
I loved quite a few things about this novel, and I had quibbles with a few, too. Let's start with love...
The setting was sumptuous and atmospheric and just absolutely kickass. I loved the tangible feel of the place. The murky woods, the mosquito-laden bogs, a crumbling hotel, the mysterious mansion. It just doesn't get any better than that.
The characters were lovely and mysterious, too. Joel was charming in his cluelessness. Randolph and Amy have their own mysteries. Joel becomes fast friends with a troubled young servant girl named Zoo, not to mention Idabel and her neurotic sister, Florabel. While the characters added to the overall atmosphere of the story, they were caricatures at times. Though, that really didn't bother me.
And now for quibbles...
While I enjoyed the tone of the novel most of the way through, there's a portion at the end that went ape-shit crazy. Joel falls ill, and that period of time felt like a bit of an acid trip. Totally surreal, yo. While I can appreciate a turn like this in the novel, as it led to some realizations and character reform, it was a little too out there at times. Over the top.
This is an important work in LGBTQ literature, and while I didn't have that in my mind for a good portion of the novel, it does become way obvious by the end. Once I had that concept in my head (call me flaky, I just wasn't thinking about it early on), I can definitely see how this novel would've rocked some boats upon publication. Not to mention that sexay author photo of the 23-year-old Capote, right? Here's the pic in its entirety.
Oh, Truman, you showman. In short, I'm glad I read this one. I liked the writing style, the feel of it, but it just got a little convoluted at the end. Try it anyway!
Pub. Date: Originally 1948
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: Bought it!