Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dust Off Those Classics: We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the CastleAuthor: Shirley Jackson
Genre: classic, thriller, mystery
Pages: 146
Published: 1962
Publisher: Penguin
Rating: 4/5 Stars

"Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate."~Goodreads

One of my book resolutions this year was to read and review more classics.  I thought I would start off the year with a book that's had a big resurgence lately.  Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a twisted, quirky little book that raises more questions than it answers.  What is normal? Who is the villain? How do we, as a society, create the very monsters we fear?

The story is told from the perspective of 18 year old Mary Katherine Blackwood (Merricat), a mentally unstable but interesting girl who lives with her older sister and their aging uncle in a huge house outside of a small village.  Merricat's sister, Constance, was accused of poisoning the rest of the family several years before but acquitted.  Still, the town reviles the Blackwoods and abuses them to the point that Constance refuses to leave home.  This leaves Merricat in charge of anything that involves going out in public and fuels her deep-seeded hatred of the villagers.  Even with all of the turmoil the Blackwoods love each other and are happy with their lives and their home until their cousin Charles shows up and starts to take over.

This book is really special because it takes the classic idea of a village plagued by a villainous family and reverses the roles.  With this being said, the Blackwoods are not at all canonized in the book.  Rather, they are shown for what they are: an unstable, dysfunctional and most-likely homicidal group of social outcasts.  Still, the "normal" townspeople are far more dangerous and cruel.

This book was full of quirk and dark humor, which I loved.  I really appreciated the care the author took with the main characters.  They felt like very realistic people and that made the events of the book even crazier.  In a way this book was charming.  While it was very strange, it had comfortable and familiar feel, much (I would imagine) like the Blackwood's home.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a fun way to start getting into more classics.

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