We Have Always Lived Here by Shirley Jackson (review by Andrew R. ’17)

We Have Always Lived in the CastleWe Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s a malicious presence in the Blackwood estate, the imposing structure on the outskirts of town inhabited by the only surviving members of a reclusive aristocratic family. It might be wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian, who constantly relives the day most of his family dropped dead of arsenic poisoning. It might be Constance, who hasn’t left the estate in six years and is fanatically devoted to the rules of etiquette. It might even be Merricat, the younger sister, who surrounds the estate with wards and totems to keep the rest of the world at bay. Jackson is best-known today for “The Lottery,” her horrifying story of small-town insularity gone wrong, but of all her notoriously creepy works this one deserves the most attention. Its suspense works in two directions: the reader discovers unsettling details about the past even as the narrative creeps toward a chilling climax, leaving the present moment doubly uncertain and doubly tense. The question of who sprinkled arsenic in the sugar bowl is pretty easily answered, but don’t be fooled—that apparent mystery is just a diversionary tactic to let more frightening revelations approach unnoticed. Even if horror isn’t your genre of choice, as Halloween approaches, Shirley Jackson’s novels are worth a try. – Andrew R. ’17

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