S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.
So one of the prime benefits of GoodReads (that I regularly miss out on ‘cos I mostly ignore the Internet), is that you can see what others are reading, reviewing, and enjoying. While updating my feed for re-reading The Waters of Nyra, I stumbled across the author, my friend Kelly, having listed a novel with a peculiar, eye-catching blurb: We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson. She recommended I read it, and so I put it in my reading list, right up after finishing Nyra. What followed was a very interesting experience.
Castle is a first-person tale, told from the perspective of Merricat (Mary Katherine), as she lives with her sister Constance and Uncle Julian, six years after the murder of the rest of the Blackwood family. There was arsenic in the sugar, and Constance was acquitted of the crime, and they now live in a very particular existence with self-imposed rules and isolation. It is exceedingly familiar to me, this existence. I myself live in this manner, with my own set of rules, charms, magic, and more. It is the only way to defeat the outside world’s power over me. Throughout the first half of the story, the outside world prickles at her bubble, in a familiar, time-worn fashion. It is frustrating, but it is how the world is. I felt a sense of comradery with Merricat in these times, in her efforts to run her errands in the village. But then he came.
Charles Blackwood is a disagreeable character. Perhaps not to Constance, at first, who seemed intrigued by his presence, but he is a darkness and an obstacle in the rules and charms and magic. He comes into the house as a guest, and acts as though he owns the place, demanding his rules are the rules that govern the house suddenly. That everything Merricat does to protect her and Constance and Uncle Julian in their way of life is wrong. He begins to shift Constance’s thoughts, and this sends a chill through Merricat. In myself, it made me nauseated and sick for the remainder of the night as I tossed and turned in bed. I know what it is like to have someone attempt to override my rules and charms and magic. It is not something I want to go through again, but I was willingly reliving the feeling through the novel, for now, because it’s such a good novel and I wanted to see Charles burn.
Well, it was not Charles that burned, but the house. In the chaos that ensues, the Blackwood women escape the villagers to the woods for a night before regathering themselves. Merricat now has to make new rules, charms, and magic, but this is fine. This is her beloved Moon, where everything is great, and she has finally taken Constance with her. The novel ends with a series of family friends attempting to reestablish contact with the women, and the villagers leaving offerings at their doorstep.
Once the initial nausea left me and I slept on the horrible irritation that was Charles Blackwood, I felt better. The sickness of the outside world wasn’t gone, but they were soon on the Moon, and that was good, that was preferable. Gone were the threats of separation and change. The change had happened, but there were still rules and charms and magic, and this was good, this was preferable. This was the Moon.
Interested in We Have Always Lived in the Castle? It can be purchased here.