The Walls Are Always Speaking

As I mentioned in my last Saturday Book Club post, I plan to only write about horror/thriller novels during the month of October.  I didn’t say, however, that every book reviewed would be fantastic.

This week I’ll be reviewing a book I read last year that wasn’t one of my favorites.  It wasn’t a complete waste of my time, but it also wasn’t a book I’d be in a rush to recommend to others.

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Image courtesy of thecaptivereader.wordpress.com.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

214 pages

This was one of my top “to read” books last year.  I often search for new books online (mostly on Amazon or Good Reads), and this was one I came across that sounded particularly interesting and creepy.  (And although it’s not a true horror/thriller story, the plot was creepy enough to fall under the “books to review during the month of Halloween” category.)

The verdict?  It was good … It just wasn’t great.  It was also nothing like I expected, which led to disappointment.

Here is the blurb from the back of the book (which is very misleading, by the way!):

“All is peaceful at the Blackwood Estate — until a murderer strikes.

Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian.  Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods — until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night.  Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers.  Their days pass by in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears.  Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.”

Okay, so … Yes, quite a bit of that was true.  The book started out very promisingly, with Merricat making one of her bi-weekly trips to the village for library books and groceries.  The story is told in first person from Merricat’s point of view, so the reader is instantly drawn into her thoughts as she is confronted by the judgmental villagers.  Her thought patterns are very strange in many ways, so much so that I thought she might be mentally challenged (though the book never explicitly states this).  Unfortunately, this made it a little difficult to get into the book at times. 

I knew the basic premise of the book before I picked it up,  That being said, I thought there would be at least a chapter devoted to that fateful dinner at the Blackwood estate.  There was a section in which Uncle Julian recounted the events as he remembered them (though he wasn’t exactly all there mentally), but no flashbacks.  In fact, the reader is never given any reason for the events that happened. Well, not officially.  We’re told in a subtle way who committed the crime, and there were a couple of hints as to why … But I felt as though I really didn’t know why it had happened in the end.

I mentioned that the back of the book was misleading.  I say this because the whole cousin Charles thing?  Yeah … Not really what it sounds like.  He’s a complete asshole, but I don’t really think he’s dangerous … Just a greedy douchebag.  At one point, he disappears and doesn’t reappear until nearly the end of the book.  At first I noticed, then I just didn’t care what happened to him.  Clearly this was a pretty awesome character.

Shirley Jackson had a great idea for the story.  Unfortunately, the execution was a bit blah for my tastes.  That’s not to say the entire book was boring … There were actually quite a few really captivating sections.  But overall?  It was just okay.  (Also, at one point I actually thought I should start a count of how many times Merricat said she felt a “chill” or felt “chilled.”  It would be a ridiculous amount, I’m sure.)

As I said earlier, I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading this book … I guess I was just expecting something different.  I may read it again in the future (especially since I own it), but probably not for quite a while.  I wouldn’t not recommend it to others, but I would definitely mention other books before this one since it didn’t exactly blow me away.

I give We Have Always Lived in the Castle THREE STARS.  Like I said, it wasn’t a terrible book, but it definitely didn’t meet my expectations.

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