“We Have Always Lived in the Castle
By Shirley Jackson
When the fall time of year comes – as it is upon me while I write this small review – I look for books to settle in with during the early nights and long evenings. Autumn is my favorite time of year and I must confess that I look for novels to impress upon me shadow, doubt, yes even fear.
Nothing is more frightening than the human heart – and this book.
I don’t like gore, nor do I like things that pop out at me. What I do appreciate about a good scare is the way it sticks with a person.
We know immediately that something is wrong – with the first paragraph, the feel of ominous history in regards to the characters and a foreshadowing of doom.
Ms Jackson was a master. I was wowed by her novel, The Haunting of Hill House and hesitated to read this book for fear of disappointment – far from it. No word is wasted every single character, every single stick of furniture described is a potentate ruling over the drive of the novel – to put the reader on edge.
And I was on edge. Yes, we know early on that the town’s people believe one thing and the reality of the situation was another. That is also the glory of the novel. We are also front and center to the debauched human heart. The scenes start to accumulate near the end like a well-organized log jam.
And here is the hurt, the fright that stayed with me – who in the end was the real criminal and what good, is human ordained redemption? After mob violence, destruction and blazing hate what can really be done to assuage the scars – nothing. So what happens? What happened before – the wound is covered, the actions buried - alive.
“It was a fine April morning when I came out of the library; the sun was shining and the false glorious promises of spring were everywhere, showing oddly through the village grime.”
“…my wife Dorothy, who had done me the honor of casting in her lot with mine, although I do not think that she anticipated anything so severe as arsenic on her blackberries. “
“On Saturday mornings I helped Constance. I was not allowed to handle knives…”