Hmm, I seem to have read quite a few books about crazy people lately. This one is one of those. Shirley Jackson, who most people know from her short story “The Lottery” which almost everyone read in grade school at some point, has a particularly dark and suspenseful brand of writing and it shines in We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
Her stories tend to be about dark, complicated people who do dark, complicated things. Here, two sisters live in a large mansion, estranged and distanced from the rest of the town, and caring for their elderly uncle. It’s unclear who is more fearful of whom — the girls or the townspeople. The two sisters, Merricat and Constance, go about their days, but their lives seemed suspended in the shadows of events that happened many years ago. And of course, as the novel unfolds, so does the mystery of what happened to the rest of their family.
It’s not for everyone, but Shirley Jackson is pretty masterful as far as crafting works of horror and suspense go (she also wrote The Haunting of Hill House, which the movie “The Haunting” is based upon). It’s a classic gothic novel, and the haunting feel of the novel is enhanced by the almost-whimsical tone of our narrator, a girl who only trusts her older sister and is threatened when their circumstances begin to change. All in all, good, creepy, expertly-crafted fun.
Also, if you haven’t read “The Lottery”, you should! Because everyone else has, it’s good, it’s suspenseful and it’s super short. You can find a PDF of it here.