“I am going to put death in all their food and watch them die.”
This month’s classic (rather, modern classic) is We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson! Shirley Jackson is best known for her short story The Lottery, and her novel The Haunting of Hill House. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is her last novel published before her death in 1965.
Merricat, or Mary Katherine, is easily one of my favourite narrators. Not heroine, because the events in this book don’t exactly warrant her a heroine status, but as a voice, as a view to how her world works, she is one of my absolute favourites.
It’s easy to figure out who exactly poisoned the sugar the night most of the Blackwoods died, and what follows after is a look into Merricat’s mind as she, Constance, and Uncle Julian continue their lives in the estate.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is narrated by Merricat Blackwood, the only one to go out of the house into town, and so the only one who has contact outside. Merricat likes it this way though – she has a perfectly choreographed routine on the trips she goes on, and that way, Constance stays at home. She and Constance have routines that are never broken, and when it is threatened by the arrival of someone that could potentially disrupt the little world Merricat has crafted for themselves, the events that follow lead up to a conclusion that I think suited this book perfectly.
I think it’s a testament to Shirley Jackson’s skill as a writer that she makes Merricat’s thoughts somehow make sense, like you can’t help but be on her side despite knowing that you probably shouldn’t. I probably should be more bothered by the fact that I was rooting for Merricat throughout the book. Like, girl I get you – nail that book to the tree, bury those silver dollars and that doll if it makes you feel better. Defend your right to live in peace and relative isolation!
“You will be wondering about that sugar bowl, I imagine, is it still in use? You are wondering, has it been cleaned? You may very well ask, was it thoroughly washed?”