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The Black House by Paul Theroux Paperback – 1974

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd (1974)
  • ASIN: B000OQ10RC
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Paul Theroux's highly acclaimed novels include Blinding Light, Hotel Honolulu, My Other Life, Kowloon Tong, and The Mosquito Coast. His renowned travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Dark Star Safari, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonian Express, and The Happy Isles of Oceania. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. C. Walter on October 25, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
English anthropologist Alfred Munday has returned to his homeland for health reasons after a decade in Uganda studying the Bwamba tribe. Frustrated by this forced change in his life, Munday finds himself unable to begin preparing his research for publication. His marriage sits on precarious ground, and he and his wife have just taken on a domestic disaster: the home they leased site-unseen--Bowood House, "the Black House" to locals--is ruinous, inhospitable, and apparently haunted. Munday's superior, intellectual airs quickly alienate the couple from their neighbors in the town of Four Ashes. Then the beautiful Caroline appears, and she initiates a torrid, reckless affair with Munday, whose old troubles are quickly exchanged for new ones.
There is a prevailing tone of despair, even damnation, to Paul Theroux's ghost story, THE BLACK HOUSE. Munday is a pathetic creature, a surly egoist unable to make or keep friends or to fill his roles as husband and scholar. He allows the trappings of his identity slowly to be stripped away until he is only a shadow of his formerly serious and professional self. He invites an African acquaintance to Four Ashes for a visit, but Munday, under the influence of this growing malaise, becomes suddenly embarrassed by the very sight of the man and abuses him at every turn. Though clearly he needs no help at it, some of his new neighbors are more than willing to aid Munday's decline: while giving a presentation at a local church about his anthropological work in Africa, a valuable and dangerous Bwamba artifact is stolen from him; the theft drives Munday to distraction, sensing that if he should ever see the object again it will not be under happy circumstances.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 3, 1997
Format: Paperback
Paul Theroux is remarkable among contemporary novelists for his stylistic range. He's written a range of unique travelogues, short stories, semi-autobiographies, science fiction, essays and with The Black House, a ghost story that evokes the feel of the great ghost stories of the Victorian era, but in a thoroughly modern setting.

The Black House tells the story of a middle aged couple, the Mundays, recently returned from nearly a decade in Africa where the husband was an anthropologist studying a tribe called the Bwamba. They've returned, ostensibly because of his heart trouble, to a dreary cottage in a small and not terribly friendly town where he can work on his book. Disturbing things began to happen almost immediately; figures are seen peering in windows. A Bwamba spearpoint dissappears from a collection passed around at a public lecture. And Munday's wife begins to suffer from unexplained maladies.

To tell more would be to reveal too much of this wonderfully dark and horrific tale. If you're a fan of the ghost stories of M. R. James (as is Theroux) or such classic tales as "August Heat" or de Maupaussant's "The Horla", read "The Black House" for a treat.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Early Easter on July 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this novel, but I seem to be in the minority. It may be that, as a person who has spent more than half my life living outside the country of my birth, I readily identify with Munday. When he begins to see his English village through an anthropologist's eye, I was drawn deep into the story.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
As a great Theroux fan, I approached The Black House with enthusiasm which soon faded. The prose is ponderous and the main characters are dull. An anthropologist returned to England after ten years in Uganda, the haunted Munday (a bad-tempered, stuffed shirt if ever there was one) becomes an incongruous partner in a steaming affair with the apparition, Caroline. Their clandestine meetings are occasioned by Caroline's invasion of the conscious mind of Munday's wife, Emma. She finds herself compelled to send her husband off on irrational errands which culminate in more sexual encounters with a waiting Caroline. (Difficult to swallow? Yes, indeed) The promised horror and haunting don't really make the grade and the most entertaining portion of the book, in my opinion, was the unwelcome visit of the African Silvano to the English village where the Mundays were not regarded kindly. This, at least, was worth an occasional chuckle.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
I love Paul Theroux, I've read most of his work, but this cruelly disappoints. He can write great fiction : look at The Family Arsenal, but this is not great fiction. I couldn't get into the book at all, the characters didn't grab me, the plot seemed forced, and the sex scenes towards the close of the book seemed almost to be there to encourage the reader to actually finish the book. Disappointed.
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