Monday, October 13, 2008

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Despite a perfectly creepy title, Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle isn't really very creepy. The book follows the three surviving members of the Blackwood family, all of whom are varying levels of crazy. Uncle Julian is the eldest surviving Blackwood, he spends most of his days trying to remember every last detail from the day the rest of the Blackwoods died (arsenic in the sugar bowl). Weakened from the poison, he is confined to a wheelchair and is often confused. Sometimes he thinks Constance is his late wife, Dorothy, and sometimes he thinks Merricat is dead. Constance is a very quiet girl who never goes too far away from the house (never past her gardens). Since she didn't have any of the sugar, she was accused of killing her family members, but was later aquitted at trial. She avoids leaving Blackwood Estate because she knows the town still thinks she's guilty. Merricat (Mary Katherine) is the narrator, and is the youngest Blackwood, 18, and she is the only member of her family that goes into town. People in the town stare and whisper, and young boys tease. Merricat is clearly a little crazy, and seems to not have matured passed the age of 12.

The book is subtle, a lot happens but it's not really a plot driven book. It's really mostly a character study of these three people, the lives they lead after a terrible tragedy. It's not really a mystery, it's fairly obvious who the murderer was, but it's a decent read. And, at 214 pages, it's a nice quick read. But, if you want to read something by Shirley Jackson, I recommend The Haunting of Hill House, a much better and creepier book.

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