horror

Be Afraid…

This is my review of We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson.

I saw this book online (I spend more time reading about reading than actually reading, if that makes sense). It’s a short read, so I decided to give it a shot, and went in completely blind- I had no idea about the theme, genre, nothing. And I got lucky! This is a very very good story.

Mary Katherine Blackwood (aka Merricat) and her sister Constance live with their ailing Uncle Julian in a large old house. Which seems fairly normal, except for the fact that it isn’t. Merricat is very strange (understatement!) and Constance has not left the house in six years. Eventually, we hear the whole story- all the remaining members of their family were poisoned six years ago, with Constance the main suspect. She was acquitted due to lack of evidence, but their neighbours are still suspicious.

One fine day, their cousin Charles Blackwood stops by for a visit. He seems to be interested in the family fortune that’s lying around in a safe, and Merricat is upset that her perfect little world is being disrupted.

To avoid spoilers, I’ll stop there. But trust me, this story┬áis super spooky, in a Gothic, insane way. You’ll spot the twist far before it arrives, but it’ll scare you nonetheless.

The book left some things open to interpretation. Witchcraft or harmless superstition? What were cousin Charles’ true intentions? I was curious enough to do a Google search. The beauty of literature is that noone can say anything for sure. But one interesting piece of information I found was that Shirley Jackson herself suffered from severe agoraphobia while she was writing this novel, which probably accounts for the general anti-social behaviours and themes in the book. Unfortunately, this was to be her last published work before her death.

4.5/5 from me, and I can’t wait to read her other books.

Bonus: Shirley Jackson has also written a controversial, famous short story called The Lottery that was first published in The New Yorker. It initially reminded me of the English readers we studied in school- short, simplistic, with vague commentary on society- and then BAM, it gets dark fast. The most inoffensively offensive short story I’ve ever read.

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Here’s one for Halloween

This is my review of Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin.

From what I’ve heard, the movie based on this book is something of a cult classic. Honestly, I just picked this one up because I wanted something quick-I’m way behind on my Goodreads book goal for the year. It was surprisingly good; I expected something much more ‘pulp fiction’.

Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse are a young newly-married couple looking for a house in NYC. They fall in love with a four bedroom apartment and immediately move in, despite its history of bad luck and strange occurrences. Rosemary wants to have children, but Guy is an upcoming actor and wants to wait until he makes it big on stage.

They befriend an elderly couple who live in the next apartment. Guy, in particular, becomes very close to them and their circle of strange, but well-meaning, friends. He agrees that it is time for them to have a child, and Rosemary quickly becomes pregnant. Soon after, he gets his big break when another actor mysteriously goes blind and he’s called in as a replacement.

Rosemary is severely ill for the first few months of her pregnancy. She loses weight and craves raw meat. She grows increasingly suspicious of her kindly neighbours, but is unable to pinpoint any malicious intent. She eventually works out the plot, but cannot escape in time.

What I liked- The story is refreshingly unique and subtle. Makes for a quick read. Was successful in creeping me out- what more could I ask from a novel of this genre?

What I didn’t like- The overly simplistic plot would be more appropriate for a short story. As it is, most of the plot focuses on ‘setting the scene’ for the final revelation. It probably makes for a brilliant movie, though.

4/5. Recommended for rainy nights when you want to spook yourself out.

Confession: I’m not as free as I once was, so I’ve resorted to queuing posts weeks/months in advance. Shouldn’t make too much of a difference, I hope.