In which I discuss – okay, ramble – about Shirley Jackson’s perfectly unsettling Gothic suspense novel, which features the most unreliable of narrators, way before that was the cool thing to do.
I think most of us who’ve done some reading and/or writing in the horror genre will have come across The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House, whether we’ve actually read them or not. The Lottery is a classic short horror story, perfectly executed, and the inspiration for many novels and movies since its publication. Shirley Jackson was, unfortunately, not well-recognised in her lifetime, although she had an incredible touch for blending the psychological and the supernatural, and The Haunting of Hill House is as perfect a ghost story as I think I’ve read (it’s worth a little read into her life, if you’re interested – she claimed to be a witch for quite a while, but apparently mostly as a gimmick. I like it.).
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is psychological rather than supernatural, and told through the eyes of Merricat, the younger of two sisters living in an old house on the edge of a village with their dotty uncle. They’re hated in the village, and Constance, the older sister, never goes out. Uncle Julian can’t. So it’s only Merricat exposed to the vitriol of the villagers, the source of which seems inexplicable at first. However, as the book moves on, and the delicate balance of their existence is thrown off by the arrival of a visitor, the story of Merricat’s castle slowly unwinds.
It’s beautifully told, with a claustrophobic atmosphere that leaves you desperately anxious for the characters, and awakens sympathy where perhaps it isn’t deserved. And I entirely loved it, and now need to re-read it immediately and buy more. More!
How about you, lovely people? Have you read much Shirley Jackson? Do you enjoy a bit of classic horror or suspense? What do you recommend I read next in that field? Let me know below!