OK, I'm going to review this book in a minute, but first I need to tell y'all about the shop I found this book in.
Last month, my mother and sisters and I got together and made a day trip into Brenham, home of The Best Little Creamery in Texas. They have a cute little downtown full of antique and junk shops and a great sandwich/pie shop called Must Be Heaven. Well, lo and behold, what did I spy across the street but a used book shop called The Book Nook. So, stuffed with sawdust pie and coffee, I toddled over to the book shop to check it out.
And had to be dragged out by my mother, eventually, but not before I spent some serious money. I could live in a bookshop like this. They even have a romantic little reading nook to settle in on.
The pictures I took don't do it justice, though. Check it out, especially their Fantasy/Sci-Fi room with the Millennium Falcon rug!
Now, about the book:
I had, of course, seen the 1956 movie, but had never realized that it was an adaptation of a novel published two years earlier. It's not unusual for horror movies to have been adapted from some fairly bad books, but I couldn't resist picking this up despite my low expectations.
I suppose the idea of an evil sociopath hiding under the veneer of a polite, neat, well-mannered little girl might have been shockingly novel in 1954, but it's been worn so threadbare in 2019 that I found myself paying more attention to the characters around little Rhoda than the child herself.
Not that Rhoda is uninteresting - she's entirely self-aware and surprisingly upfront about her true nature. She wants what she wants and does not tolerate anyone standing in her way. Her imitations of normal childish behavior are so stilted that it's incredible that hardly anyone sees through her. At least, people who are exposed to her long enough eventually conclude that she's a bully and a liar, but none seem willing or able to take the next logical step in connection with the injuries and death that seem to trail in her wake.
The story features a number of characters, all of whom are flawed and unlikeable in some way. Even the most sympathetic character, Rhoda's mother, is weak, whining, and ineffectual,
even when she finally tries to do something about her daughter.
I don't want to spoil the story beyond what would be impossible to not know about it for anyone who hasn't been living under a rock, so I'll say no more about the characters or plot. But the book is overall well written and interesting, if a bit dragging in places, and well worth the read.
Paperback version, with a short foreword by Anna Holmes, reflecting on the story from a modern feminist perspective.