Sunday, May 23, 2021

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle. 1962 novel by Shirley Jackson. Last book before her death in 1965. Man, this book is dark and full of triggers. Gaslighting and family violence. Makes for a complex and sometimes unpleasant read of a total masterpiece. 

Gist of the book is that a wealthy Vermont family, devasted by the poisoning deaths of several relatives living on the estate, are more or less complete pariahs in the backwoods town they inhabit. It is to the point that only one of the three people living in the house can get food and things, and she is constantly harassed whenever she does. This is the eighteen-year-old Merricat Blackwood, the novel’s unreliable narrator. She lives with her uncle, Julian, and sister Constance, both of the Grey Gardens persuasion type shut-in. Things are going fine, I guess, until their relative Charles shows up, sort of woos/takes advantage of Constance, and looks for ways to steal the family fortune. He also maybe encourages the idiot townspeople to be cunty to the Blackwoods. This until, you know, possible poisoners get tired of his shit.
I’ve had a long fascination with the “other” and the way dumb fucks treat them in works of fiction and film. This is fucking dripping with that shit and is a significant theme in most of Jackson’s work.
Not sure I would have liked this book as much if I’d read it at another time in my life. But I am unfortunately able to identify with the agoraphobia of the main characters. Without giving too much away, it is brutal that, in the end, with the house barely livable, they choose to retreat further inward. With this time of covid coming to an end, with fear still present despite being vaccinated, I get the sentiment. 

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