19 October 2011

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Shirley Jackson is the supreme ruler of pschyological fiction.

Don't believe me?  Haven't read The Lottery?  Or The Haunting of Hill House (movie versions with Liam Neeson don't count)?

Then you ought to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

The Blackwood family is so many ways of messed up.  What is left of the family (Connie, Uncle Julius, and Merricat) lives in their huge house, fenced off from the town, after Connie is acquitted of fatally poisoning the other four family members with arsenic six years ago.

It was in the sugar.  For the berries.

Cousin Charles shows up to help the girls "move on" and stop living in isolation/being fodder for the local gossips (so he says).  For a little while, it seems he might be successful.  Then everything goes completely wrong.

This book constantly keeps a reader on his or her toes - mostly due to the fact that the book is narrated entirely by Merricat (Mary Katherine).  At eighteen years of age and either immature or unbalanced (draw your own conclusions), Merricat is an unreliable narrator at best.  She has odd rituals and practices sympathetic magic.  Things happen when she's around.  Creepy.  Forboding.

My edition, the Penguin Deluxe Classic, has an introduction by Jonathan Lethem and fantastic cover art by Thomas Ott.  The cover alone is worth buying the book.

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