Monday, 13 October 2008

R.I.P. Book Four - We Have Always Lived in the Castle

This is my third R.I.P. read and at last I've read one that I feel properly qualifies! I could not resist buying the Penguin Deluxe edition of this book, as illustrated below, but the price on Amazon seems to have dramatically risen since I bought the book a couple of weeks ago so try the Book Depositary instead!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson is a short, very unsettling novel that centres on a pair of sisters living in isolation in a large house on the outskirts of a village with their infirm uncle. The book is told from the perspective of the younger of the two sisters, Mary Katherine (Merricat) Blackwood and the opening lines set the tone for the rest of the story:

"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 I could have been born 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 halloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead."

Just reading those opening lines sent shivers down my spine. We know from an early stage that Constance, the elder sister, does not leave the house and that the local villagers bear hatred towards the family. Gradually the sense of foreboding increases as Merricat's (sometimes unreliable) observations are interspersed with those of Uncle Julian as he collates his autobiography and we start to build up a picture of what might have happened in the Blackwood property a few years before.

I really can't say much more without ruining the plot development but this is a really good, if sinister, book and one I would heartily recommend. I am going to have to keep my eye out for The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery as it seems that they are other "essential" Jackson reads and I really want to read more of her work.

I see that a few other R.I.P. readers also read this book as part of the challenge so why not head over to see what Nymeth, Eva, Lethe and Debi had to say about it.

1 comment:

Nymeth said...

Thanks for linking to my post, Peta! I'm glad you enjoyed the book so much.