Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourites, 15 Mar 2010
This review is from: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) (Paperback)
This book is one of those rare gems that seems to transport you to another world effortlessly. Almost as soon as I began to read it I found myself walking home with Merricat, the eyes of the hateful town upon her. I have seldom been so absorbed by a book. Especially one which does not appear to be popular although the reason for this escapes me entirely.

I am always loathe to mention too much detail in a story when reviewing it for obvious reasons however I would like to include some in this review in order to do the book justice.

At the beginning of the book we meet Mary Katherine Blackwood (known by her family as Merricat) a strange, dark, daydreaming, 18 year old girl who lives with the remaining members of her family in an old house on the outskirts of town. From the outset of the book it is obvious the townsfolk hate the Blackwood family but it is not fully explained why. Apart from Merricat no-one else from the family ever ventures outside.

Six years before the beginning of the book most of Merricat's family were murdered and the culprit was never brought to justice. The murders happened in the same house they live in now which only adds to the intriguing and unsettling nature of the story. Although the murders are not exactly central to the story itself they are always there in the back of your mind...could one of the survivors have been the killer? It's a powerful question that keeps you turning the pages.

The four central characters are wonderfully written out although not always likeable. The character of Charles, the unwelcome cousin, is delightfully repulsive and devious. No-one in the family likes him except for Constance who seems unable to think badly of him, at least initially. Constance herself is a troubled character; forced by circumstance to become the head of the family at the young age of 22 has taken it's toll on her but she undoubtedly loves her family very much especially Merricat. Uncle Julian is a survivor of the murder attempt but it has left him wheelchair bound and suffering from what appears to be the onset of dementia. He is often confused but also has remarkably lucid moments. There is a surprising amount of humour in the book most of which comes from Julian. He is brilliantly irreverent and always speaks his mind.

The first part of the book focusses mainly on the day to day life of the Blackwood family and their relationship with the townspeople and each other. The middle of the book regards the arrival of cousin Charles which badly upsets the equilibrium of the house, and sets in motion the disastrous events that shape the end of the story, which I will not give away!

One of the most interesting parts for me, besides the internal workings of Merricat's mind, is to see a story from the outcasts point of view rather than the frightened townsfolk. It put me in mind a little of stories like 'To Kill A Mockingbird' and the film 'The Burbs' both of which contain social outcasts as main characters with the main difference that these stories focus on the point of view of the outsiders looking in as opposed to the hermits looking out.

The story ends in an unusual way which I wasn't quite expecting. Once I had thought about it for a while I decided I liked the ending. Haven't we all been in a situation where we would love to shut out the outside world even for a short while? I know I have and this book speaks to that part of me.

Highly recommended, it has become a favourite of mine
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