The House Next Door

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Overview

Their love would never be the same.

Colquitt and Walter Kennedy enjoyed a life of lazy weekends, gathering with the neighbors on their quiet, manicured street and sipping drinks on their patios. But when construction of a beautiful new home begins in the empty lot next door, their easy friendship and relaxed get-togethers are marred by strange accidents and inexplicable happenings.

Though Colquitt's rational mind balks at the idea of a ...

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The House Next Door

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Overview

Their love would never be the same.

Colquitt and Walter Kennedy enjoyed a life of lazy weekends, gathering with the neighbors on their quiet, manicured street and sipping drinks on their patios. But when construction of a beautiful new home begins in the empty lot next door, their easy friendship and relaxed get-togethers are marred by strange accidents and inexplicable happenings.

Though Colquitt's rational mind balks at the idea of a "haunted" house, she cannot ignore the tragedies associated with it. It is as if the house preys on its inhabitants' weaknesses and slowly destroys the goodness in them — ultimately driving them to disgrace, madness and even death.

Anne Rivers Siddons transports you deep into the heart of a neighborhood torn apart by a mysterious force that threatens their friendship, their happiness and, for some, their very existence.

"Haunting"
New York Post

Author Biography:

Anne River Siddons was born in 1936 in Fairburn, Georgia, a small railroad town just south of Atlanta, where her family has lived for six generations. The only child of a prestigious Atlanta lawyer and his wife, Siddons was raised to be a perfect Southern belle. Growing up, she did what was expected of her: getting straight A's, becoming head cheerleader, the homecoming queen, and then Centennial Queen of Fairburn. At Auburn University she studied illustration, joined the Tri-Delt sorority, and "did the things I thought I should. I dated the right guys. I did the right activities," and wound up voted "Loveliest of the Plains."

During her student years at Auburn, the Civil Rights Movement first gained national attention, with the busboycott in Montgomery and the integration of the University of Alabama. Siddons was a columnist for the Auburn Plainsman at the time, and she wrote, "an innocuous, almost sophomoric column" welcoming integration. The school's administration requested she pull it, and when she refused, they ran it with a disclaimer stating that the university did not share her views. Because she was writing from the deep South, her column gained instant national attention and caused quite "a fracas." When she wrote a second, similarly-minded piece, she was fired. It was her first taste of the power of the written word.

After graduation, she worked in the advertising department of a large bank, doing layout and design. But she soon discovered her real talents lay in writing, as she was frequently required to write copy for the advertisements. "At Auburn, and before that when I wrote local columns for the Fairburn paper, writing came so naturally that I didn't value it. I never even thought that it might be a livelihood, or a source of great satisfaction. Southern girls, remember, were taught to look for security."

She soon left the bank to join the staff of the recently founded Atlanta magazine. Started by renowned mentor, Jim Townsend, the Atlanta came to life in the 1960's, just as the city Atlanta was experiencing a rebirth. As one of the magazine's first senior editors, Siddons remembers the job as being, "one of the most electrifying things I have ever done in terms of sheer joy." Her work at the magazine brought her in direct contact with the Civil Rights Movement, often sitting with Dr. King's people at the then-black restaurant Carrousel, listening to the best jazz the city had to offer. At age 30, she married Heyward Siddons, eleven years her senior, and the father of four sons from a previous marriage.

Her writing career took its next leap when Larry Ashmead, then an editor at Doubleday, noticed an article of hers and wrote to her asking if she would consider doing a book. She assumed the letter was a prank, and that some of her friends had stolen Doubleday stationary. When she didn't respond, Ashmead tracked her down, and Siddons ended up with a two book contract: a collection of essays which became John Chancellor Makes Me Cry, and a novel of her college days, which became Heartbreak Hotel, and was later turned into a film, Heart of Dixie, starring Ally Sheedy.

As Ashmead moved on, from Doubleday to Simon & Shuster, then to Harper & Row, Siddons followed, writing a horror story, The House Next Door, which Stephen King described as a prime example of "the new American Gothic," and then Fox's Earth and Homeplace, about the loss of a beloved home.

It was in 1988, with the publication of her fifth book, the best-selling Peachtree Road, that Siddons graduated to real commercial success. Described by her friend and peer, Pat Conroy, as "the Southern novel for our generation." With almost a million copies in print, Peachtree Road ushered Siddons onto the literary fast track. Since then the novels have been coming steadily, about one each year, with her readership and writer's fees increasing commensurately. In 1992 she received $3.25 million from HarperCollins for a three book deal, and then, in 1994, HarperCollins gave Siddons $13 million for a four book deal.

Now, she and her Heyward shuttle between a sprawling home in Brookhaven, Atlanta, and their summer home in Brooklin, Maine. She finds Down East, "such a relief after the old dark morass of the South. It's like getting a gulp of clean air...I always feel in Maine like I'm walking on the surface of the earth. In the South, I always feel like I'm knee-deep." But she still remains tied to her home in the South, where she does most of her writing. Each morning, Siddons dresses, puts on her makeup and then heads out to the backyard cottage that serves as her office. And each night, she and her husband edit the day's work by reading it aloud over evening cocktails.

Siddons' success has naturally brought comparisons with another great Southern writer, Margaret Mitchell, but Siddons insists that the South she writes about is not the romanticized version found in Gone With the Wind. Instead, her relationship with the South is loving, but realistic. "It's like an old marriage or a long marriage. The commitment is absolute, but the romance has long since worn off...I want to write about it as it really is: I don't want to romanticize it."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416544920
  • Publisher: Pocket Star
  • Publication date: 5/22/2007
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 4.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Rivers Siddons

Anne Rivers Siddons was born in a small railroad town just south of Atlanta, where her family has lived for six generations. She attended Auburn University and later joined the staff of Atlanta magazine. Her first novel, Heartbreak Hotel, a story of her college days at Auburn, was later made into a movie called Heart of Dixie, starring Ally Sheedy. Since then she has written fifteen more novels, many of which have been bestsellers. Recently, a movie version of her later novel The House Next Door was aired on LifeTime Network. Ms. Siddons now divides her time between Atlanta and Brooklin, Maine.

Biography

Born in 1936 in a small town near Atlanta, Anne Rivers Siddons was raised to be a dutiful daughter of the South -- popular, well-mannered, studious, and observant of all the cultural mores of time and place. She attended Alabama's Auburn University in the mid-1950s, just as the Civil Rights Movement was gathering steam. Siddons worked on the staff of Auburn's student newspaper and wrote an editorial in favor of integration. When the administration asked her to pull the piece, she refused. The column ran with an official disclaimer from the university, attracting national attention and giving young Siddons her first taste of the power of the written word.

After a brief stint in the advertising department of a bank, Siddons took a position with the up and coming regional magazine Atlanta, where she worked her way up to senior editor. Impressed by her writing ability, an editor at Doubleday offered her a two-book contract. She debuted in 1975 with a collection of nonfiction essays; the following year, she published Heartbreak Hotel, a semi-autobiographical novel about a privileged Southern coed who comes of age during the summer of 1956.

With the notable exception of 1978's The House Next Door, a chilling contemporary gothic compared by Stephen King to Shirley Jackson's classic horror novel The Haunting of Hill House, Siddons has produced a string of well-written, imaginative, and emotionally resonant stories of love and loss -- all firmly rooted in the culture of the modern South. Her books are consistent bestsellers, with 1988's Peachtree Road (1988) arguably her biggest commercial success. Described by her friend and peer, Pat Conroy, as "the Southern novel for our generation," the book sheds illuminating light on the changing landscape of mid-20th-century Atlanta society.

Although her status as a "regional" writer accounts partially for Siddons' appeal, ultimately fans love her books because they portray with compassion and truth the real lives of women who transcend the difficulties of love and marriage, family, friendship, and growing up.

Good To Know

Although she is often compared with another Atlanta author, Margaret Mitchel, Siddons insists that the South she writes about is not the romanticized version found in Gone With the Wind. Instead, her relationship with the region is loving, but realistic. "It's like an old marriage or a long marriage. The commitment is absolute, but the romance has long since worn off...I want to write about it as it really is: I don't want to romanticize it."

Siddons' debut novel Heartberak Hotel was turned into the 1989 movie Heart of Dixie, starry Ally Sheedy, Virginia Madsen, and Phoebe Cates.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Sybil Anne Rivers Siddons (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Charleston, South Carolina and a summer home in Maine overlooking Penobscot Bay
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 9, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A., Auburn University, 1958; Atlanta School of Art, 1958

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Claire Swanson from two doors up was the first one to tell me about the Harralson house. She and Roger have lived in the yellow Dutch colonial for years, far longer than we've been in ours. Claire is square, sturdy, and somehow comfortingly basic-looking -- low to the ground, as she says herself. Built for stamina, not speed. Those solid hips, impervious to her regular tennis matches and her clockwork morning jogging expeditions around the little park that divides our street, have cradled and spawned three boys. Nice kids they are, in their middle and late teens. The whole street enjoys them and employs them regularly for yard work and the kind of nasty, heavy work you can't get anybody to do for you anymore. They do it cheerfully, coming in with a twang-thudof screened door for Cokes and midday sandwiches andto use the telephone.

"Hi, Colquitt," they'll say to me, looming large and rank-sweating from a morning of wrestling our illtempered old power mower up and down our terraced front yard. "You look like you're painted into those Levi's."

Since I have known them through broken arms and acne and sullen excursions to dancing classes, and since the Levi's do look painted on me, and I am proud that I still have the long, flat thighs to wear them, I don't mind the familiarities. I would mind them, very much, from almost any other boys their age. I am not a formal person, but I am rather private.

Claire and Roger are old money in the city, and the boys don't have to do the work. Their parents insist on it. however. In this very New South city, Walter and I have noticed that the Old South element of it clings to the substantial virtuesof work, lack of ostentation, and a nearness to the earth that survives even in their manicured city neighborhoods.

"I don't see the point in all this plain downhominess," a vivid, restless woman whose husband's nationally prominent corporation had just moved its headquarters here said to me once at a ballet guild meeting. She was in linear black linen and Elsa Peretti silver on a swimming August afternoon in Florence Pell's legendary back garden, a coutured raven in a field of sundresses and pants and espadrilles.

"I mean, what good does their money do them? I know they have it-my God, Carl says some of them could buy and sell Fairfield County. But I haven't seen live-in servants or a driver since I left New York. They keep going to Europe, for God's sake.. if they go anywhere at all. They don't have boats. If they have summer places, they're down on that God-forsaken, potty little island you all are so insane over. I haven't seen one single piece of fantastic jewelry. They send their kids to Emory; can you name me one kid in this town who goes to Harvard or Yale or Vassar? They go to the grocery store. When they go out at night it's to that mausoleum of a club. Why have it if you don't have any fun with it?"

I suppose she felt free to say it to me because she knew Walter and I are not natives. And we certainly are not in the same financial league with some of our friends. But we are of them precisely because we understand the way they choose to live. It is our way too; we find grace and substance, a satisfying symmetry and a kind of roundness to it. We like our lives and our possessions to run smoothly. Chaos, violence, disorder, mindlessness all upset us. They do not frighten us, precisely, because we are aware of them. We. watch the news, we are active in our own brand of rather liberal politics. We know we have built a shell for ourselves, but we have worked hard for the means to do it; we have chosen it. Surely we have the right to do that.

At any rate, Claire and Roger Swanson are a satisfying unit in our world, and have been good friends to us ever since we moved here. So when I stopped the car at the mailbox on my way home from work that afternoon a couple of years ago -- I hadn't left the agency then-and Claire hailed me from midway down the street where she was walking Buzzy, their elderly Schnauzer, I didn't walk halfway to meet her, as I would have with some of the neighbors to whom we are not so close. I shouted, "Come on to the backyard and let's have a sundowner. Walter's working late. Bring Buzzy."

"I have some news you're just going to hate," she said when she had leashed Buzzy to the leg of the wroughtiron table on our patio and had taken a long, grateful gulp of the bull shot I'd brought her. "Mmmm, that's good. You make good drinks. Roger says you're the only woman in town whose drinks don't give him diarrhea the next morning."

"Walter made me learn before we got married. It was one of the conditions. Living well is the best revengeold Spanish proverb or something. What am I going to hate? Don't tell me . . . Eloise is pregnant again."

Eloise Jennings, in the gray Cape Cod across from us and catty-cornered across from the Swansons, had four children under the age of eight, two in diapers, and a front yard full of Day-Glo-colored plastic tricycles and wading pools and swing sets. They were whining, unattractive children who terrorized neighborhood pets and were apt to materialize in your kitchen uninvited, fingers in noses, looking into your refrigerator. Walter and I are very fond of some children, but not across the board, not as a species. No one on the street was very fond of the Jennings children...

The House Next Door. Copyright © by Anne Rivers Siddons. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
Walter and Colquitt Kennedy love their neighborhood, with its genteel parties, friendly neighbors and the great view out their windows. But then the Harralsons buy the beautiful empty lot next door and hire the young, incredibly talented Kim Dougherty to build their dream house. At first the Kennedy's bemoan the loss of their lovely view, but soon strike up a friendship with their new neighbors and an even closer relationship with Kim. And then the mysterious mishaps begin. They start small, missing pets, strangely butchered wildlife, but soon the tragedies escalate. At the Harralson's first housewarming party, the new house receives full town approval and glowing reviews, but Kim detects something wrong, "there's something in this house I didn't put here. I can feel it, I can hear it talking to me, but I can't understand what it's saying." At first, Colquitt's mind balks at the idea of a "haunted house," but she cannot ignore the growing number of tragedies associated with it. It is as if the house preys on its inhabitants' weaknesses and slowly destroys the goodness in them, ultimately driving them to disgrace, madness, and even death. As the house's influence grows and begins to extend to its closest neighbors, Colquitt and Walter find themselves caught up in a desperate struggle to keep their sanity and marriage intact. Desperate to find some means of warning each successive family that moves in before it's too late, the Kennedys risk losing their friendships, their happiness, perhaps even their very existence, to the mysterious force that is tearing their neighborhood apart.Topics for Discussion
1. How does the house drive the Kennedystoward madness? What is it that enables them to resist for so long? In the end, do they defeat the house, or does it defeat them?

2. Why is it so hard for the Kennedy's to warn the town and even their closest friends? How do their attempts backfire? When Claire is finally convinced of the house's danger, why won't she help Colquitt?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2005

    A Harrowing Haunted House Story

    WOW! It's been many years since I've read a novel as chilling and as disturbing as this one! Siddons' haunted house tale, originally published in 1978, remains as timeless today as if it had been published yesterday. I had heard of the author for some time, but it wasn't until quite recently that I heard one of her earlier works, The House Next Door, was a frightening, psychological thriller. Boy, was that ever on the mark! The prologue packs a wallop, and from there on out the book's initially slow, methodical pace picks up speed before galloping toward its unbelievably horrific conclusion! I've read thousands of novels, most of them horror, but this older work of Siddons' has catapulted itself to the top of my favorites list for its unrelenting infusion of madness and horror in what should have been a peaceful, idyllic neighborhood. You MUST read this book!!!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2012

    Great spooky story

    This is one of my favorite books and I was thrilled to find it available for Nook! Lifetime movies made a movie based on the book and it was pretty good too.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2012

    AWESOME

    His book is a good book!!!!!!!
    If you want somthing enterresting, read this book!!!!!!!!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2011

    Excellent!

    It has all the flavor of Siddon but with an underlying sense of disquiet

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Really Good

    I really liked this book. I had seen the movie first and just had to read the book it was based on. The only thing is that I wish the ending had been a little clearer in telling what happened to Walter and Colquitt. This was a very good and easy read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2009

    Easy Read

    This book is well written. I can appreciate the humor; it brings back fond memories!

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2002

    Read This Great Book!

    I could not put this book down until I finished it! Twists and turns keep you guessing all the time, a wonderful suspense book that both my husband and I enjoyed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2000

    A book you truly can't put down

    Hated finishing this wonderful book. It is different than any other Ann Rivers Siddons book Ive read before. Haunting. As in all her books the characters grab you right from the first. Makes you feel that you want to be friends with them. I just ordered two more of her older books. Please write more like this.......

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2014

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  • Posted October 1, 2013

    This book keeps you guessing, A must read!

    I really enjoyed this book. It keeps you guessing, almost to the end. The characters are great! I love the neighborhood feel and the neighbors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2013

    Wow

    I am a voracious reader and I have been all my life. I love a good book and I was blown away by The House Next Door. I started and finished it on a Saturday afternoon ... I literally could not put it down. I was astonished at its original publication date: first because I had not come across it sooner, and second because of its timeless quality. It is a beautifully written "scary" story and so much more!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2012

    ..a little too much fantasy

    I've enjoyed many of Anne Rivers Siddon's books; however, this one I would not recommend - unless the reader enjoys and lot of mystery and fantasy.

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  • Posted September 14, 2012

    One of my favorite authors

    reads like a stephen king novel. Not sure I like that or not, but a good read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2008

    Too much

    detail about everyone's lives and not enough about the house.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2005

    Too many loose ends

    A nice easy read, but not as scary as I had hoped it would be. It was more creepy and wierd than frightening. The only downfall was that there were so many loose ends left like there needed to be a few more chapters to really wrap up the story. A little disappointing...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2003

    A Must Read For Summer

    I just started reading this book. I am at the part in the book when the Harrelson's have a 'let's meet the neighbors' party. I can't stop reading this book. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a good summer read.

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    Posted May 30, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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