Thursday, June 11, 2009

Unwelcome Neighbors

Last night I stayed up late to complete We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. You know Jackson from her short story "The Lottery," required reading for all middle school English classes. Castle is similar thematically. The title alone made me want to read the book, as it reminds me of the oft repeated phrase from Cold Comfort Farm: "There have always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm." I couldn't get this phrase out of my head, which is replete with humor, so I took an undeservedly whimsical approach to Jackson's dark novel. I often do that with the most frightening of tales. I enjoy scary stories so much that my reaction is to be simultaneously creeped out and giddy.

Castle is the tale of Merricat, who lives in the isolated Blackwood mansion with her elder sister and senile uncle. Several years ago, all the other Blackwoods died when someone put arsenic in the sugar bowl. Readers get a wonderfully warped perspective via Merricat's narration, who reveals more and more of her strange compulsions as the plot progresses. Jackson writes in modern, eerie prose, focusing on the cruelty of which ordinary people are capable and leaving just enough of the mystery unrevealed at the conclusion. It reminds me a bit of Jane Eyre and the stories of Flannery O'Conner.

3 comments:

Felix Grant said...

Sadly, it seems to be out of print and not available again until November, over here ... but, I've pre ordered it :-)

Watoosa said...

Felix, you can order it from the US version of Amazon.com. I've ordered books from Amazon UK before--if they are released earlier there or if I prefer their editions.

Felix Grant said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Watoosa. Just had a look at that option ... but I'm too mean to pay the extra shipping [grin]...

Also, I'd rather support a bookshop if possible.

I'll go in search of a second hand copy ... or perhaps buy it when I'm over there.