This is a book that I’ve wanted to read for years, so had deliberately tried to keep myself away from reviews and theories surrounding it – I’m sooooo glad I did. Often cited as being Shirley Jackson’s greatest work, the story joins Mary Katherine Blackwood as she walks derisively through a town full of people she loathes, and who loathe her family in return. Or at least, they loathe what remains of her family…
Constance Blackwood, the reclusive older sister, was tried and acquitted of murdering nearly all of their family one dinner time by using arsenic in their food instead of sugar. The only other survivor of the meal was Uncle Julian, who spends his waking hours ruminating on the events of that fateful day. Constance indulges the whims of her younger sister, who she affectionately refers to as “Silly Merricat.” Weaving her homemade spells based on secret words and memorabilia from their past, Merricat strives to keep the status quo of their solitary life. Until one day, Cousin Charles invites himself to stay with the family, attempting to tame her whilst he prods and pries through the house in search of the late Mr Blackwood’s fortune.
As the novel progressed, I began to realise how untrustworthy Merricat was as a narrator and how intense and damaged her mind was. The symbolism used and Havisham-esque existence of the sisters left me feeling caught in a magical web of deceit and antipathy.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys experiencing the insidious realisation that all is not as it seems… 5/5 stars
A special thank you to my patient fiancé Chris for being my “dead hand” model while I was taking photo after photo for my review!