Read This: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

DSCN0101We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson is just about as creepy as the front cover makes it look. It is not scary by any means, but weird, eccentric, and eldritch, yes.

I’m not a huge fan of horror, which is why reading Haunting of Hill House by Shirley almost deterred me from reading anything else by her. That book is FRIGHTENING, all about people getting stuck in a haunted house with ghosts doing weird things. Castle is different though. It’s more grounded in reality, which automatically takes the horror factor out (no demonly things), and it has a degree of sardonic humor that makes this read much lighter than the other one.

Furthermore, I really enjoy the bizarre characters of this story and I just adore their bizarre names.

DSCN0104Merricat, Constance, and Uncle Julian have always lived, as you can probably guess, in a castle. Okay, so it’s not actually a castle, just a really big house, and it used to be filled with seven Blackwoods. As the story unfolds, the mysteries of the Blackwoods are slowly revealed – how the town shuns the family now, how the other Blackwoods all died at the same time, how there was poison in the sugar bowl…

DSCN0105How the only ones who didn’t eat sugar on their blackberries that night (which was a family tradition) were Constance and Merricat.

Uncle Julian, who only had enough poison to  addle his brains and paralyze him, remembers a little about that day, but this doesn’t matter at all until an outsider starts to stick his nose in their perfectly ordered lives. He starts asking questions, and answers start coming involuntarily.

DSCN0106Part of the reason this book is so captivating is not because of the eccentric story-line, but rather the intriguing description. Even in The Haunting of Hill House Jackson has a lovely way with her words, but in this little novel it’s even more pronounced. It’s just a gem of a whimsical murder mystery, and you can’t help but love it in all its creepy glory.

The tale is told through Merricat’s eyes, and this is just a snippet of who she is:

I liked my house on the moon, and I put a fireplace in it and a garden outside (what would flourish, growing on the moon? I must ask Constance) and I was going to have lunch outside in my garden on the moon. Things on the moon were very bright, and odd colors; my little house would be blue.

Ultimately, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a delightful story, plain and simple. It’s on my favorite list, which says a lot considering I’ve read more books than I can even count.

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