Category: Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – post II

Greed as it usually does smashes the world of the Blackwood sisters as their cousin Charles comes to try and rob them blind and steal as much as he can to restore his own fortunes. Of course he hides that ambition but the reader can clearly see that the naive girls are sitting ducks for their ruthless relative.

Without wanting to give away the ending the point that this book makes very well is that fear is often in the mind of those imagining the crimes and the horror. Collective fear is the danger here not poison most of the time. In some ways it reminds you of To Kill a Mockingbird the way the children demonise what they don’t understand. Here it is an entire village bar a couple of people.

There is also a complex relationship between the sisters that Jackson manages to convey in very few pages. Constance is perhaps the last real Blackwood victim here as she is taken to the moon by her dreamy sister and kept there.

The crowd scenes when it borders on developing into a lynch mob leave you in no doubt that ignorance and anger can be chilling when left in the wrong hands.

A review will follow soon…

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle – post I

The Times recently had a week when it gave away a series of ‘chillers’ clearly designed to appeal to readers looking for something a little bit spooky as the darkness draws in. Among the books there are a couple that are going to be read this week.

The first is We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Things start with a creepy girl wandering through a village where she and her family are clearly feared and as a result are taunted. Through the explanations and experiences of Mary Blackwood it is possible to draw out the family history of the Blackwoods and their once proud position in the neighbourhood.

When you do find out why the family is so feared, through the case of a mass poisoning, and the remaining members Mary and her sister Constance and their Uncle Julian live a very isolated existence in their grand old home.

Although acquitted of the crime of killing her family Constance is unable to leave her home through fear of the unknown and Julian has dedicated his last few years to writing and documenting the events in minute detail on the last day of the family. There detachment and isolation from the world is so complete that apart from the occasional interruption you assume they could stay in that state for a long period.

More tomorrow….