The Blackwell family have always lived in their beautiful home, a little apart and a little better than those around them. But since a family tragedy 6 years earlier, Merricat, her sister Constance and their aged and fragile Uncle Julian live there alone, avoiding contact with the hostile village around them. They live by a strict routine, numbly going through life, until one day someone comes who threatens to destroy their simple pattern forever.
Narrated by Merricat, who has a very distinctive style and tone, the book takes you gently by the hand, and leads you into madness and mystery as the story of the two sisters and their tragedy unfolds. There’s something delightfully odd about Merricat, the way that she seems younger than her age, her desire to be left alone and her spite at the people around her who are not her family.
This book was the last completed work of Shirley Jackson, before her death in the 1960’s. A lot of people feel that it is her best work, but I find all of her work that I have read to be very good, especially if you like odd novels with interesting, unreliable narrators and psychological exploration. Of course, a lot of her work, like this book, sits comfortably in the Gothic Horror genre, of which she is considered to be one of the most respected authors. There’s something lyrical and fascinating about Jackson’s work, which I really enjoy. There is always a mystery unfolding, and often there are no simple answers. This book is perhaps where her voice and style can be found at it’s strongest and most developed. And it’s an absolute delight.
And you may never look at your siblings the same way again.
Read It If: you like gothic horror, or love strange and interesting stories with a little mystery to them. A thoroughly gripping read.