Wednesday, November 04, 2015

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

by Shirley Jackson

Still need your fix of spooky reads after the Halloween season? Try turning to some classic creepy with Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I listened to this one on audio which I highly recommend. The narrator, Burnadette Dunne, has an eerily calm and wispy voice perfect for the unsettling plot and characters. The story is told in first person from the view of Mary Katherine "Merricat" Blackwood, who lives with her older sister Constance and Uncle Julian in a large house on large grounds just outside of a New England village. They are the only surviving members of their family after a mysterious arsenic poisoning. 

Constance was put on trial for the murders but later acquitted from the charges. The aftermath of this tragic incident has left the family shut up in their giant home, away from the taunting townsfolk that fear and despise them. Only for weekly trips to the market does Merricat leave their isolation. Their idyllic routine is broken when a long lost cousin, Charles, comes by for a visit and wears out his welcome. The rest of the story unfolds with such tension that I was sitting in my parked car in my driveway not able to move. This was my first Shirley Jackson experience and loved every minute of it. I can see why her short story collection Let Me Tell You, released this August, was so highly anticipated. I will definitely be placing a hold on that one. Love the classic American Gothic? Try Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. Prefer more spooky and paranormal? Check out Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Review by Stevie Z.

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