“I was very much looking forward to reading this book, because I saw it rated so highly and was so well loved by so many readers. And it was a well written and intriguing book; I read it from cover to cover in one afternoon. It is simply written, seems to be about middle school level.
The story centered around Miss Mary Katherine Blackwood, who, in the first sentence of the book gave her age as 18 years old. She seemed to come from a wealthy family, and she lived in a reclusive mansion with her 28 year-old sister, Constance and her invalid Uncle Julian. Everyone else in the family was dead.
I had to keep referring back to the opening sentence where Mary Katherine (aka Merricat) proclaimed herself to be 18, because in voice and actions she seemed more like a young 12 year old. Perhaps even younger at times. I even wondered for a while if the opening statement she made to us readers was a lie, and in actuality she was not as old as she said. Now having read the book in its entirety, she does seem to actually be an adult.
Merricat was the narrator of this tale, and as Merricat told it, she liked to play games. She was a firm believer in magical thinking. For instance, as she traveled weekly to the village for supplies, in her imagination, she would roll dice (as in a board game), then count the sidewalk bricks, sometimes losing turns as she skipped from side to side. Merricat tried to make good luck days by hanging books from trees, burying silver dollars in the ground, or etching power words into her jelly. She also saw omens (like when the book fell off the tree) as premonitions of a bad luck day. And what a temper! When Merricat was displeased, she smashed cups and mirrors, poured water over beds, stole people's belongings, and wished they were dead.
We learned that the villagers shunned and harassed the remaining members of the Blackwood family, and we soon learned why. The villagers were frightened of Constance, for Constance was accused (but acquitted) of the murder of the rest of the family by a mass poisoning at dinner, by putting arsenic in the sugar bowl. This happened 6 years earlier - when Merricat was about 12 (was this coincidental to the age Merricat behaved in the book? Did that tragic event stunt her maturity? Or was she just mentally ill?).
Uncle Julian survived the poisoning, but he thereafter was wheelchair bound. He remained fascinated by the day of the murder and constantly tried to recall and write down facts about that day. He was up to Chapter 44 when we came into this story.
The story was of a psychological nature, but I was a bit disappointed by the ending. It was a 4-star book for me, right up until the end, but I guess I was hoping for more of a twist (that I didn't predict), or an explosive conclusion, from the build up of an afternoon of turning pages. For this reader, it just seemed to fizzle out a bit - so 3 stars is all it gets from me.
This was good story and I'm glad to have read it, but it is not my favorite Shirley Jackson book. I gvve my copy of it away through the read and release program, Bookcrossing where my screenname is "choclaholic".”