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WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE By: Shirley Jackson August 9, 2010

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.

     Shirley Jackson was an extremely unique and creative writer. You may recognize her name as the author of the awesome short story THE LOTTERY, and the novel, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, which was made and remade into hit movies. Jackson claimed to get many of her story ideas from her cats as they sat on her shoulder and whispered into her ear. I wouldn’t be surprised if the idea for this story had a feline origin, since one of the story’s protagonists is a noble and self-sufficient cat living in an enviable environment where he is free to romp, hunt and hide.
                                                                        The Moonlit Library’s faded blue copy of this 1962 book is so worn that the title can no longer be read on the spine. Decades of readers have marveled over the eccentric Blackwood family who were brought to life by Jackson and placed in an old family home surrounded by generations of family heirlooms. But to Constance, the older sister, the true family wealth was in the jeweled jars of preserved jellies and foods in the basement pantry. Generations of Blackwood women canned those items, and most were far too old to be eaten, but she enjoyed admiring their dancing colors and the spidery handwriting on the faded labels whenever she descended to retrieve an edible jar preserved by her own hands — the very hands accused, and then acquitted, of poisoning everyone in her family except her younger sister, Mary Katherine. Uncle Julian had been poisoned, too, but he survived and now is cared for, in a state of senile dementia, by the sisters.
     When the uninvited Cousin Charles comes to visit, it is clear he wants to get his sticky fingers on some of the family wealth hidden throughout the house, and Mary Katherine and her cat Jonas sense this. Even Uncle Julius clearly dislikes the young man and insists he keep clear of his papers and possessions. But kindly Constance plays the good hostess and feeds and cleans for him. The visit brings about a huge, irreversible change for the family. The house is, literally, never the same, and the family’s standing with their neighbors alters slightly, turning them from strange pariahs into esteemed legends.

     The first book jacked presented here is included because it is from one of the older printings. The second, because I really like it.



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