The House Next Door

The House Next Door

by Anne Rivers Siddons


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An unparalleled picture of that vibrant but dark intersection where the Old and the New South collide.

Thirtysomething Colquitt and Walter Kennedy live in a charming, peaceful suburb of newly bustling Atlanta, Georgia. Life is made up of enjoyable work, long, lazy weekends, and the company of good neighbors. Then, to their shock, construction starts on the vacant lot next door, a wooded hillside they'd believed would always remain undeveloped. Disappointed by their diminished privacy, Colquitt and Walter soon realize something more is wrong with the house next door. Surely the house can’t be haunted, yet it seems to destroy the goodness of every person who comes to live in it, until the entire heart of this friendly neighborhood threatens to be torn apart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416553441
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 07/03/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 116,428
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.26(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

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.


Charleston, South Carolina and a summer home in Maine overlooking Penobscot Bay

Date of Birth:

January 9, 1936

Place of Birth:

Atlanta, Georgia


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-thud of screened door for Cokes and midday sandwiches and to use the telephone.

"Hi, Colquitt," they'll say to me, looming large and rank-sweating from a morning of wrestling our ill-tempered 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 virtues of 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 down-hominess," 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 wrought-iron 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 revenge — old 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. Or, if the truth were known, of the Jenningses. The house was his family home; they had been substantial people who had died and left the house to Semmes Jennings before we came. He was a broker downtown, and a posturing bully. Eloise had been his secretary.

"Probably," Claire said, licking salt off her upper lip. "But that's not it. The McIntyre lot's been sold and they're going to build a house on it."

"Oh, shit!" I wailed. I don't say that often, not like some of our friends, to whom casual obscenity is a not-uncharming habit. It's not that I disapprove; I just don't say it much. But this warranted a hearty "shit."

"Isn't it awful? I knew you'd hate it worse than anybody." Claire did not look sympathetic; one of the things I find amusing about her is a totally unmalicious malice. Besides, the McIntyre lot was not next door to her. It separated our house from the Guthries' to the left, and I have always loved it.

It is a peculiar lot, shaped like a narrow wedge of pie, broadest in back and tapering to a point at the street. It has — or did have — a steep ridge running like a spine down its length, thick with hardwoods and honeysuckle and tall old wild rhododendron. It is a shallow lot, stopping about on a line with our back patio, and a creek runs through it parallel to the street, bisecting it neatly into two halves. The same creek winds through our front yard and dips under the street, through a culvert, to reemerge in the small park that divides the street. Because of its narrowness and lack of depth, because of the ridge and creek, we had always been sure that no one could figure out how to put a house on it. Indeed, it had been up for sale at the same time our house was, and we had not bought it primarily because everyone on the street assured us that architect after architect had surveyed the site and pronounced it impossible to fit a house onto comfortably.

It had remained unsold. In our midtown neighborhood it was an oasis of wild, dark greenness, luminous in the spring with white dogwood and honeysuckle and rhododendron blooms, giving one the feeling of being cloistered away in a mountain retreat even though our street is only a block off one of the city's main thoroughfares. Our bedroom windows overlooked it and so did the unused upstairs bedroom that I planned to make into an office when I left the agency. Downstairs, the kitchen and breakfast room looked out into its lacy bulk through prized old French doors. Outside, our patio faced it. The places, in short, where we lived, where we spent most of our time. Though the Guthries were just on the other side of the ridge, I could and did move freely and without constraint in that end of the house in my nightclothes, or in nothing, if I chose. I have a rather shameful penchant for that. I like the feeling of air on my body. I loved the sturdy chuckle of the creek, the nearness of the woods, the squirrels and birds and chipmunks and occasional possums and raccoons that skittered and shambled there. Virginia and Charles Guthrie loved the lot, I knew, for the same reasons we did. They are, as are most of us on this street, people who treasure space and greenness and privacy. The lot was a buffer, a grace note. Any house there, any house at all, no matter how well done, would stare directly into the core of our living. No matter how careful the architect, trees would have to go.

"Are you sure?" I asked. "There've been a million rumors about houses going up there since we've been here, and none of them came to anything. Everybody says it's just not possible to build on it. Martin Sawyer, he's that very good architect who's Walter's tennis partner, he said it couldn't be done. Who told you? There's not a realtor's sign. We heard old Mrs. McIntyre took it off the market when it didn't sell, back when we moved in."

"Old Mrs. McIntyre has gone to her reward, whatever grim thing that might be," Claire said. "Her daughter in Mobile put it on the market. In fact, daughter sold it directly to somebody she knows here. And I know about it because whoever handled it at the bank told Roger about it."

Roger will probably be the next president of the third-largest bank in the city; at forty-eight he's been executive vice-president for eight years. His grandfather was president. His uncle is chairman of the board. Roger would know.

"Well, that doesn't mean they'll be able to build on it. You know what the architects say."

"There's one that says otherwise. Roger didn't believe it either, so he checked it out, and he says there are plans, sketches, elevations, the whole schmeer, already done. He says it can be done; he's seen the plans. The architect is some young hotshot right out of one of those eastern architecture schools; he's out to put us all in House Beautiful. It's very contemporary, from what Roger can tell, really a pretty good-looking house, if you like that kind of thing. I know you don't, but I've often thought that all that open space and light and stuff... Well, anyway, up it's going, and pretty soon too. The people are anxious to get into it."

"Oh, Claire, oh, damn. That's going to mean bulldozers and chain saws and red dust and red mud and men all over the place — they'll have to doze it. They'll have to take down trees... Who are the people, do you know?"

"No. Except that they're a very young couple, and her daddy gave her the lot and house for a baby present. Yep. Pregnant and with a rich daddy. I do know that she calls him Buddy and he calls her Pie. Roger got that from whoever handled the closing."

"Sweet God. Buddy and Pie and bulldozers and baby makes three. You know, I'd almost think about moving. I really would."

"No." Claire's broad, tanned face was serious; the gentle malice was gone. "This house and this street is right for you and Walter, Colquitt. You fit here like you were meant to be here — from the very first you did. You...enhance it for us, for Roger and me especially. Hang some curtains and start wearing clothes... oh, yes, I know you run around naked as a jaybird in there. I'm not going to tell you how I know, either. I'd do it myself if I didn't have three adolescent sex maniacs and old man Birdsong next door and did have a body as good as yours. Hang some curtains and grit your teeth, and meanwhile give me another drink, and then I've got to go home. You might even like the house, and I suppose it's barely possible that you might like Buddy and Pie. God! But even if you don't, it's not worth moving. It's only a house."

After she left I finished off the watery bull shot in the pitcher and went upstairs, a trifle giddy with vodka and dismay, and took a shower. The bathroom that connects our bedroom with the room destined to be my office is large and airy, and the woods from the McIntyre lot, together with the ferns I've hung in the bank of high old windows, give the room an undulating, greenish, underwater light that I've always loved. It makes me feel like a mermaid, wet and sinuous and preening in her own element. There had never been curtains; we had never needed them. Those rooms looked straight into treetops. "I'll hate whatever curtains I put up," I thought, toweling myself. "No matter if they're Porthault and cost the earth, I'll hate them."

I put on white slacks and a tee shirt and went, barefoot, down to the kitchen and started a salad. We'd have it with the half of the crab quiche I'd made for Sunday brunch, which I'd frozen. I put a bottle of Chablis into the freezer, made a mental note to myself to take it out in half an hour, and then, on impulse, stuck a couple of glasses in the freezer and mixed a pitcher of martinis from the Russian vodka Walter had brought home — smooth, silky, lovely stuff. Why not. Why not, indeed? It's Friday. Weekend coming up. Long, lazy, golden weekend. We'll drink to that.

"We're drinkin', my friend, to the end..."

Aren't you the lugubrious one, though, Mrs. Colquitt Hastings Kennedy, sozzling martinis and weeping over a piece of ground that doesn't even belong to you, I told myself. But it does, I said back. It's more mine than it will ever be theirs, these dreadful, faceless Buddy and Pie people and their awful, faceless baby. I looked out the kitchen window at the piece of ground that did not belong to me, settling itself into the fast-deepening green darkness that seemed to well up from the very earth of it. My mini-mountain.

The headlights of the Mercedes swung across the kitchen and stopped, and went out. I heard the nice, solid thunk of its door closing and went out onto the back porch, cats eeling around my ankles, to meet Walter.

He would not yet have heard about the house next door.

Copyright © 1978 by Anne Rivers Siddons

Copyright renewed © 2006 by Anne Rivers Siddons

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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House Next Door 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.......
Leigh Massengill More than 1 year ago
It has all the flavor of Siddon but with an underlying sense of disquiet
Slim20 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
brsquilt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Haunted new house - intriguing, but disappointed with final outcome.
queencersei on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderfully creepy haunted house story. What do you do when the house next door is haunted? Do you sit back silently and watch as family after family is destoryed in various fast esclating ways? Or do you speak up? Even if it means losing friendships and your own social standing? This is the dilemma facing the two main characters as they try to deal with living with the house next door.
TheLibraryhag on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Colquitt and her husband, Walter, are disappointed when the wooded lot next to them is sold. They have enjoyed the privacy it provided. But as the remarkable house starts to rise, they are charmed by the original design and the architect who designed it. But as the house comes closer to completion, disturbing events start to happen there. After, three occupancies of increasingly violent outcomes, Colquitt and Walter decide that something must be done about the force in the house that feeds on the people in and around it.I had no idea that Anne Rivers Siddons had written a supernatural story. This one is very good with her excellent writing. She has a way of drawing the reader in and her understanding of southern culture makes her stories all that more rich.This is not a super scary book. I would describe it more as supenseful. Remember that it was originally published in the 70's but the characterizations still ring true to me.
peggyar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When the new house is built the neighbors are disappointed that the lovely lot has been used. They become even more worried as strange things begin happening at the house and to the different people who buy it.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My experience with horror stories is admittedly limited. I picked up this book in search of another reading experience like House of Leaves: an ambiguous and amorphous malevolence with the house itself as antagonist. But my expectations didn't spin out that way at all. The House Next Door should be read not as a horror story - the reader may be disappointed with it - but as a satire of the insulated upper class who inhabit and neighbor this house.The house is architecturally distinct from every other one on the block: it is set in an irregularly-shaped lot, and the style is unapologetically modern, in contrast to all of its Victorian neighbors. As each of three families moves into the house, they face a setback or humiliation that seems deliberately calibrated to tap into their worst fears. Such a pointed 'haunting' therefore not only attacks the inhabitants of the house, but the entire neighborhood, as their pride in their own social standing and decorum is confronted.So it's a different sort of horror story, in line with The Lottery or The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. The neighborhood's animosity and the threat of this modern and different house create an atmosphere of hostility that blossoms among the neighbors. Ghouls and ghosts won't be anyone's downfall - instead, left to their own hostility and insecurities, people do themselves in.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR is not a typical Anne Rivers Siddons novel. It is a haunted house story, a subtle and creepy one. I've read it twice, although I do not currently own a copy, alas, or I would probably read it again. It is a quick read, and I think it benefits from rereads.I am not a fan of Siddons generally, but as I say, this is an unusual offering from her. It is set in a suburban Southern neighborhood, and the house in question is not some decrepit mansion, but rather a modern house that is being constructed when the novel opens. The neighbors, Colquitt and Walter Kennedy, quickly befriend the genius architect behind the house. Once it is is finished, it is home to three families, and tragedy inexplicably befalls them all. Colquitt begins to suspect that there are malevolent forces at work, but the source of these forces is left to the reader to decide. This is a solid entry in the ambiguous haunted-house genre that includes THE TURN OF THE SCREW, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE and THE LITTLE STRANGER.
lexi1022 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A truely chilling book full of suspense. This story is one that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Horror is not my usual read but I was drawn to this book from the moment I heard about it. Deffiently a most read for anyone. It has a great story that will suck you right in and hold on to you untill the very last page.
elizabethn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this book is fantastic. Utter door.
mmyoung on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the most unconventional horror books I have ever read -- and one that stays with one long after reading it.
cequillo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Siddons is best known for her novels of the deep south, written in the vein of one who knows the people and the area. However, she's also displayed great skill and talent at writing horror with The House Next Door. This book gnaws at the reader at the psychological level of terror and it's one I was barely able to put down. Well crafted and perfectly paced, this is one to keep you up nights. I only wish she'd written more in this genre.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A really different sort of haunted house story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept my interest, names of characters are ridiculous. Lots of interesting subplots
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this was quite good. A bit of supernatural in an ideal world. I fell in love with Colquette and Walter and their home and their life and love for each other. I wish it haden't had to end the way it all did and how was that exactly? Could be more than 1 interpretation. Well done - I recommend this 280 page read and look forward to more by Ms Siddons.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept me glued til the last page. Stephen King would be proud. Highly recommend, just clear your calendar first!