Back in October I tried to read The Haunting of Hill House and was severely bothered by the outdated feel and dialogue. I gave up after about 20 pages. I decided to give Shirley Jackson another try with We Have Always Lived in the Castle and am so glad I did. This quirky, macabre novel was a pleasure to read and contemplate.
Merricat (Mary Katherine) Blackwood, her sister Constance and their Uncle Julian live a routine, reclusive life in a big house on the outskirts of a hostile village. Years before, Constance had been acquitted of murdering the rest of the Blackwood family and now they are ostracized, hated and feared by the villagers. Merricat narrates the novel and from the beginning we know that she is not your typical eighteen-year-old. Her behavior and opinions are childish and she relies on superstition to predict events and protect her family. The plot eerily creeps along with Merricat telling of the arrival of a long-lost cousin and the escalation of fear among the villagers that leads to a chilling ending.
Jackson masterfully produces a unique and creative story by using restrained language and a matter-of-fact tone. Her characters are all mentally crippled in one way or another, but she doesn't judge them - she just lets the facts speak for themselves. I appreciated this aspect of her writing. I also enjoyed her subtle sense of humor, a trait that is surprising in such a bizarre novel. This is definitely a book that will stick with me for a while.
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