The Lodger by Marie Adelaide Belloc

*The following review may contain spoilers.*

The Lodger was published in 1913. It is arguably the most well known work of its author Marie Adelaide Belloc (1868 – 1947). The Lodger famously became the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s silent classic The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927), although the movie differs somewhat from the book.

The new lodger at the Buntings’ home is a dream come true. So generous with money and such a gentleman! He is just what Robert and Ellen Bunting needed. So what if he is a little ‘eccentric’? Surely, he means no harm. Or does he?

The Lodger strangely oppressed me. It’s not so much the crimes but just the unbearable suspense of it all. Is the lodger the serial killer everyone is looking for?  Will some harm come to the Bunting family?

I don’t understand Ellen’s attitude. Why does she become so agitated? Why does she want to know for sure and yet tries to ignore the possibility of her lodger being a serial killer & tries to cover for him? If it was fear, I would have understood. If it was pure sympathy for the lodger, that could be explained too. But she shows both repulsion and compassion. All her life she had maintained her distance from ‘crudities’ such as murder. She wouldn’t even let her husband talk about them. But her tenderness for the lodger contradicts all that. She forgets her scorn for crimes & criminals and becomes unhealthily obsessed with the ghastly murders in spite of herself.

The characters of Robert and Ellen Bunting are interesting. The way they both react to their forebodings about the lodger was interesting to read. Their dilemma also stems from the fact that the lodger had brought them the financial security that they needed so badly. But surely no amount of money can ever make up for the fact that they are harbouring a possible serial killer?

The characters of Robert’s pretty but vacuous daughter Daisy and his young friend Joe Chandler seemed promising but nothing comes of them. I thought the young policeman Chandler would turn out to be useful somehow but he simply spends his time wooing Daisy, who in her turn contributes very little to the story.

The book builds up the suspense and keeps building it up until I felt as jumpy as Ellen Bunting! The part that really creeped me out was when Robert Bunting bumps into his lodger in the streets after midnight.

The book got on my nerves after a while. It stretches on and on and Ellen keeps getting worse and worse. How much more of that could I take? I longed for the conclusion.

After so much nerve-wracking suspense nothing really comes of it. The ending felt very abrupt. I kept anticipating some terrible ending to Ellen’s unfounded sympathy for her lodger but that never comes.

Overall, reading The Lodger was a weirdly unsatisfying experience. The suspense quotient of the story was so high at times that I couldn’t breathe but in the end it was all rather hastily wrapped up. The book made me feel strangely depressed and discontented. I don’t think I will be re-reading this one.

(This review is offered as a part of Friday’s Forgotten Books meme. Check out what other reviews are up at pattinase.)

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