Week two of this Shirley Jackson marathon is all about what some people consider to be her masterpiece (others think it’s THOHH) and that is ‘We Have Always Lived In The Castle’. This book is about the surviving members of the Blackwood family: Merricat, Constance and Uncle Julian. What did they survive you ask? Mass poisoning. One night at dinner the entire family (bar those three of course) is poisoned. Constance is arrested for this crime and subsequently acquitted and since then she, her sister and their uncle have lived in the house in complete isolation.
Only Merricat ventures out to get food from the local village and whilst it’s clear Constance wishes to start going out, it’s just as clear Merricat is very much concerned with making sure she doesn’t. This is not only because the local villagers are quite hostile toward the Blackwoods. No indeed. Merricat, our narrator, is a strange, whimsical creature, who buries things and nails things around the perimeter of her house to protect her remaining family, she has little routines and rituals she keeps to quite stringently. Her main purpose in all of this is to protect the closed bubble of her existence – one she clearly cherishes.
It becomes obvious fairly quickly that not all is well with Merricat and that the remaining Blackwoods are keeping a huge secret – some of them even from themselves.
Into their closed little world comes cousin Charles and he brings with him the undoing of all Merricat has tried to protect. She does try to get rid of him but disaster strikes again and again, and ultimately she ends up almost destroying the house she so desperately wants to protect, and the small family held practically prisoner within its walls. This is such a dark tale, almost fairy tale like in the telling, with a rotting core surrounded by magic and whimsy. It is a beautiful and brilliant accomplishment and I recommend it enthusiastically!
You can buy this book in the UK here
And in the US here