After last week’s laughable Jamaica Inn review, I decided to turn my hand to a more comfortable review style for me: a list. I admit, it does read rather nonsensically if you’re not familiar with the novel, but it was fun to write, so I’m cool with that!
1. I cannot believe how much I love the name Merricat. It’s soooo cute and happy!
2. Ehhhh… Merricat is not a very nice little cat.
3. Catchy rhyme though… *hums “‘Merricat,’ said Connie, ‘would you like a cup of tea?'”
4. Is it wrong that Connie’s self-imposed house ban seems kind of nice to me? It would be peaceful, not having to worry about anything but my garden and cooking!
5. ARSENIC ARSENIC ARSENIC ARSENIC.
6. Wait, what? I’m so confused with the whole tea party bit – there’s about seven conversations all happening at once, and I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON!!
7. I like Merricat’s magic. I mean, I don’t think it’s magical, but she describes it so beautifully and her beliefs are so strong… it’s fascinating.
8. Not gonna lie, I can sympathise with Merricat. She just doesn’t want change… is that such a bad thing?
9. Why does everyone treat Merricat like a child? Isn’t she supposed to be 18?
10. Charles is a baddie. I don’t like him.
11. You tell him about those poisonous mushrooms Merricat!! It’s a good way to threaten people…
12. So Uncle Julian thinks Merricat is dead… come to think of it, I can’t remember ANY conversation between them.
13. THERE IS SO MUCH FOOD IN THIS BOOK. It’s simply wonderful!!
14. “Silly Merricat”. Connie is so adorably indulgent and caring. I love her.
15. Still don’t like Charles, but it feels creepy to agree with Merricat…
16. *SPOLIER* Sooooo… Merricat set the fire, amiright??? NOTHING IS CLEAR!!
17. Merricat basically confesses, and that’s all fine, except there’s no obvious motive. I know I’m supposed to think that Merricat hated her family so bad things happened, but… there’s just no mention of it. Which, I suppose, is telling in itself, right?
18. People are horrible. How can you save a house, then destroy it?
19. Ummmm… I’m not sure what to make of the ending. It’s kind of positive, but really, really sad. Even for someone like me, who would like to live on their own moon…
So, overall… I didn’t love We Have Always Lived in the Castle , but I didn’t hate it either. I was pretty excited about it when it was first announced as part of the #gothicreadalong2016 – WHALitC isn’t the sort of book I’d have picked by myself, but I loved the premise. In reality, though… I really disliked the writing style. I’m not sure whether it was Shirley Jackson’s style, or just the style of writing associated with narrators with mental disorders (I’m thinking The Shock of the Fall and Alice and the Fly), but I find it bewildering and that upsets me. Anyway, in terms of plot I wasn’t overly impressed with WHALitC – really it involved a guest coming to stay in a house and… that’s about it. And so much was unexplained – again, I don’t know whether that was to do with Merricat’s mental state or Jackson’s precocious writing! I feel like the characters could have been developed more, but I suppose that air of mystery was supposed to alienate the reader more…
In terms of ‘Gothic’, I do feel like WHALitC fell flat for me. Yes, it may centre around a murderous family, but it was far more relationship themed than spooky. Jamaica Inn at least had an incredible, lonely atmosphere, whereas WHALitC COULD have been claustrophobic (and I do believe that was the aim), but even that fell flat for me. Again, I’m not saying that I HATED WHALitC; but it did disappoint me.
Have you read We Have Always Lived in the Castle? And what are your thoughts on narrators with mental illnesses?