What’s The Underhouse all about?:
The Underhouse follows an odd gentleman who decides to remodel his house in an upside down fashion.
What did I think?:
I’ve mentioned before that one of the reasons I love short story collections that feature multiple authors is that I get to read work from an author I’ve never heard of before. Gerard Woodward was another one of those authors for me. On doing a little bit of research on him, I can’t believe his work has passed me by. He is probably most famous for his trilogy of novels that followed a troubled family, the second of which – I’ll Go To Bed At Noon was short-listed for the 2004 Man Booker Prize. He is also a prolific poet, his first collection being published in the late eighties and his most recent, The Seacunny in 2012. The Underhouse is one of the shorter stories in this collection as as a result, I don’t have a whole lot to say about it except that it’s perfectly obvious that Woodward has a talent for sucking the reader into his world in a very short space of time.
Gerard Woodward, author of The Underhouse.
This story follows our unnamed narrator who becomes obsessed with a peculiar aspect of his house. At first, he wants to make his cellar and the room above (the sitting room) exactly the same height so he lowers the cellar floor to make this just right. This isn’t quite good enough and he then becomes fixated on making the cellar an exact replica of the room above i.e. the same furniture, curtains, light fixtures and fittings BUT (and here’s the twist) as an “upside down” version so the cellar looks like an exact mirror image of the room above. He goes to extraordinary lengths to make sure everything matches exactly and is delighted with the eventual outcome. However, you might be wondering why this story is in a collection entitled The New Uncanny? Well, he uses this strange gravity-defying room to deliberately unnerve other people, making them feel quite uncomfortable and uneasy in this abnormal, incredibly unique setting.
Well, this was an odd little tale! I liked the imaginative idea behind it and have to admit I was wondering how it was going to become “uncanny.” In the end, I found what our narrator did quite unnerving but perhaps not as disturbing as I was expecting. It’s certainly a strange situation to find yourself in and even that picture is making me feel a bit ill just looking at it so I can imagine if I was placed in those circumstances, it would probably have the desired effect on me! I don’t really have any strong criticism or feelings towards the story either way, I enjoyed the writing style and appreciated what the author was trying to do but I couldn’t help but wish it had been a bit longer so that the narrator had a bit more of a chance to tell the reader how exactly he was using the room for his own devious plans.
However, I would definitely check out Gerard Woodward’s work in the future as he’s clearly an intriguing writer with a plethora of interesting ideas.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Adventure Of The Copper Beeches by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.