I love this book. I don’t know why Shirley Jackson isn’t everywhere, her books are so good. It’s like she’s seen as an American author and isn’t really widely known here. Her writing is just gorgeous. Somewhere between Edgar Allan Poe and Willa Cather. An ability to create a real authenticity about mundane life with the creepy, disturbing, horror of it all sewn right in there with the fabric.
I love Merricat Blackwood. Outside of Esther Greenwood, I have never read a character who is so like me. This is me as a child. If anyone wants to know what the inside of my head was like as a kid, read this.
This book is about the contrasting horrors of the mundane and the gothic worlds. There is the dramatic aesthetic of a murderess, living in her spooky old house on the hill, the same house where she poisoned her family, with the last doddering victim to survive the massacre living with her, babbling about seeing his wife and brother die around him. And there is the familiar, everyday horror of a town full of dead-eyed, dull-witted, small, mean and cruel people, talking behind your back, making up songs to sing about you, building their hate like tending a fire.
And yet both also are shown to have their warm, tender comforts, their kindnesses. For me this is story is about choosing between love, love which binds you, might hurt and cripple you, might tie you up and drag you down with it, but which is real and meaningful and enduring, and the terrifying and exhilarating freedom that comes with independence, being a stranger who can go where they want, when they want, but who means nothing to no one, and might not even have a friend when they need it. It is about the push and pull of the ties that bind.
Just an overlooked gem of a story.