Well, here I am again, running late and falling short. I have, once more, failed at my objective to read all of my books in the time frame allotted to me by myself. No excuses this time; I just suck. But let’s talk about what I did get to finish, shall we?
We Have Always Lived in the Castle. We Have Always Lived in the Mother Effing Castle. Wow, this is my kind of book. I’m not sure if I’ve referenced this film a million times yet or not, but one of my favorite movies is Stoker by Korean director Park Chan-wook. It’s dark, twisted, unconventional, and incredibly beautiful. I felt all of those things about WHALitC. We enter into the lives of Mary Katherine and Constance Blackwood, two young women who live isolated in their large house with their wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian. The fractured family fell into disrepair after an unfortunate case of arsenic poisoning knocked off the rest of the Blackwoods half a decade ago. Constance, having been put on trail and then acquitted of the crime, suffers from such extreme agoraphobia that she cannot leave the house. Uncle Julian is so much diminished from the poisoning that he struggles to keep one foot in reality.
The town is happy to keep them isolated, making disparaging comments and singing a haunting little nursery rhyme about the murders whenever Mary Katherine comes near. And it is only ever Mary Katherine, or Merricat as she is referred to, that leaves their extensive grounds.
We view the story through Merricat’s point of view via her first person narrative, which is both childlike and vicious. Joyce Carol Oates, among others, has described her as feral. If I were to describe her, I think I would go with psychotic, because that would surely be her diagnosis. Even though she does all the shopping and errands for the household in the outside world, she is the most detached from reality of them all. Merricat’s disjointed thought process and her invented system of superstitions is incredibly off-putting and creates an atmosphere of sharp unease. Imagine you’re going on a hike on a hot day, and suddenly you get to a part of the trail where there are no trees. The June bugs are so loud, and the sun is so bright, and you start getting one of those headaches. That was the feeling I had during this book, that sharp contrast, dehydrated feeling. But I’m going to say that was a good thing.