We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Such a classic.
Even when we know what's going on and why it's happening, it's so easy to fall into the character and root for her. I can't stand the things that people put her through, from the town, to Charles, or even to her own parents. (Although to be sure, we only get a tiny little glance at her parents from a few repeated lines.)
When reading this I was thinking of Paul Tremblay's Head Full of Ghosts for the murder (some say accident) of most of the family at dinner, but of course, this was the spiritual mother of that tale. All the little hints and reveals weren't precisely news, of course, but the real treat was in the psychological nuance.
Like The Haunting of Hill House, it's not the outright horror scenes that make the book shine, but the way the characters are unstable, what it means, and how it drives the details and the horror of the final scenes. For anyone in love with psychology, Shirley Jackson is a treasure trove of discussable characters. Hell, Shirley Jackson herself suffered from quite a few of them, herself, and brought the feels to the page in a way that few others could dream.
The townsfolk were walking nightmares, all color drained out of them. Paranoid delusions or not, I was always rooting on Merricat. Did I get very disturbed by her imaginings? Not really. People can be real *hits. Was I disturbed by her reciting of poisons or the magical incantations she made up in order to protect her house? Not at all. Again, I like weird people and she was, despite what we figure out on a careful first read, mostly just dancing to her own drum. She grew up strange and was always told she could do no wrong. After the deaths, who wouldn't get a lot stranger when every single person in the town believed you did it? Even if she hadn't, it'd drive most people insane.
Shirley Jackson is a master at turning normal people into monsters, and this book is no different.
I know a ton of modern horror writers who give this author major props and I have to say, it's all very well deserved. :) Bravo!
Now if only we as a people hadn't driven this author into agoraphobia, seclusion, and persecution... until she died, alone, before she had even turned fifty. She wrote about what she knew, after all.
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