We Have Always Lived in the Castle
I love this creepy creepy book about a little girl named Merricat who is essentially the Bennington, Vermont version of the The Bad Seed. Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle is the story of the three remaining members of a wealthy family who were murdered by dipping into the sugar bowl. The poisoned sugar killed them at their prosperous dining table; the townies, resentful of their stingy wealth, are thrilled. Constance, Merricat and Uncle Julian are the reclusive survivors who spend their days cooking, pulling vegetables and flowers from the garden and cleaning the house to an obsessive-compulsive degree. They add to the never-ending rows of jars of pickled veggies and jams in the basement. They talk to their cat…and also listen to their cat. Impaired Uncle Julian spends his days documenting the minutiae of the last living day of his family in a draft of a never-to-be-published book. And the townies sing a song in mockery about poisoned tea with sugar.
“Constance, I should not be talking so on an empty stomach. Where is my breakfast?”
“You finished it an hour ago, Uncle Julian. I am making you a cup of tea, and pancakes for Cousin Charles.”
“Charles is intrepid. Your cooking, although it is of a very high standard indeed, has certain disadvantages.”
“I’m not afraid to eat anything Constance cooks,” Charles said.
“Really?” said Uncle Julian. “I congratulate you. I was referring to the effect a weighty meal like pancakes is apt to have on a delicate stomach. I suppose your reference was to arsenic.”
Joyce Carol Oates wrote a review with an emphasis on the lyricism of Jackson’s sentences in the New York Review of Books: The Witchcraft of Shirley Jackson