Author: Edgar Allen Poe
Publication Date: 1839
Review Score: 7/10
We join this story as an unnamed narrator arrives at The House of Usher, to visit his boyhood friend, Roderick Usher, who has written for help, complaining of illness. It soon transpires that Roderick Usher is suffering from deep psychological issues, which although had not been defined at the time of writing this novel, can be seen as what we now call anxiety, hypochondria and delirium.
We soon learn that it is not just Roderick that is suffering from these illnesses but also his twin sister Madeline, who has a habit of falling into death like trances. The narrator spends his time trying to comfort Roderick, reading with him, playing music and musing, but it is not long before tragedy hits as Madeline passes away.
The pair place the girl to rest in the family tomb, hoping to put an end to her torment. But soon they are shaken by strange noises and a horrific feeling that perhaps she was laid to rest to soon!
I suppose the first thing that needs to be addressed with The Fall of the House of Usher is that it is not actually a novel by its own right but rather a short story. This is the first short story I have come across on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list but they justify the selection as it would seem mad not to reference such an influential writer as Edgar Allen Poe on the list!
Whether or not a short story should feature is not for me to decide, (I didn’t write the list!) and so all I can comment on really is what I thought of the story. This was the first piece by Poe I have read and I was highly impressed! Although the story is very short, Poe is able to build up the tension beautifully leading to a highly dramatic and enthralling crescendo.
Given that it was written over 180 years ago, it doesn’t pack the same punch as I’m sure it did then, given all the horror films and more graphic novels we are now privy too. However, the story is still rather chilling and unsettling and is clearly a huge inspiration for many modern day horror novels.
It may not be the most exciting or exhilarating book you ever read but it will definitely leave an impression. Put it this way, it took 20 minutes to read but will be remembered for a life time!