|Coffee shop reading (notice a previous blog post topic, |
Code Name Verity, in the background)
Category: This is the first time I’ve read this novel. I selected it because I wanted something short to read.
My thoughts: We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a creepy little story. I wanted to read this because it was short and a little different than some other books I have read lately. Back in college, I read the Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, which was so unsettling to me that I had trouble sleeping the night I finished reading it. We Have Always Lived in the Castle isn’t quite as unsettling as The Haunting of Hill House, but it’s still pretty creepy.
The novel is narrated by 18-year-old Mary Katherine Blackwood, who lives with her older sister Constance and infirm Uncle Julian. Six years prior, Mary Katherine and Constance’s parents, brother and aunt (Uncle Julian’s wife) died as a result of arsenic poisoning—the arsenic was in the sugar that the family sprinkled on their berries at dinner. Constance was tried for and acquitted of their deaths. Constance herself wasn’t poisoned because she didn’t ingest the sugar, Uncle Julian had very little sugar (which spared his life but rendered him handicapped), and young Mary Katherine wasn’t at the dinner table at all. The three of them live a very secluded existence in the house where the deaths happened and are the subject of a lot of speculation by the townspeople. Then their cousin Charles arrives and things get stranger for the Blackwoods.
The setup, if you will, of the family’s deaths, reminds me of the beginning of an episode of Law & Order. The children in the village have a crude little rhyme that they taunt Mary Katherine with when she enters the village, which is reminiscent of the one about Lizzie Borden. Like I said, the book is creepy. We eventually find out who put the arsenic in the sugar, and the answer is disturbing and…well, creepy. I’m not sure if I’ll read this book again. But I may try to read another Shirley Jackson novel at some point. She was a fine writer.
Great passage: My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all could have been a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.
Up next: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold