Vinod Kurup

Hospitalist/programmer in search of the meaning of life

Dec 11, 2019 - 3 minute read - Comments - book-review

We have always lived in the castle

At school, Kavi is reading “We have always lived in the castle”, by Shirley Jackson. I read her short story, “The Lottery”, in high school. I recall the main plot of the story, but I’m sure I have forgotten many details. What I haven’t forgotten is the sense of shock I felt as the plot finally became clear. As I’m typing this, I wonder if that was more because I was young and new to being shocked, or whether it was really shocking. In any case, that feeling of being shocked by that story is deeply embedded inside me.

So I checked this book from the library and finished it today. It was dark and disturbing, reminiscent of “The Lottery”. There were many elements of foreshadowing. From the start, you wonder what Mary Katherine or her family did to sow such discontent among the villagers, and the answer comes slowly, in bits and pieces. I wondered why they had library books that they would never be able to return. In the end, I was sucked in and couldn’t put the book down until I figured it all out. Thankfully, it’s a short book.

Some random thoughts that my brain generated while reading this book (and that I’d prefer to remember someday):

  • When Merrikat and Connie first enter their house after it was trashed by the village, Merrikat is not surprised that the library books are intact because it’s against the law to damage library property. I smiled.
  • The absurdity of Merrikat’s behavior at times struck me hard. The first time was when she threw a glass pitcher on the floor because she was upset by a visitor talking to her sister too much. I had to re-read that section a few times because it was written in an almost off-hand way, as if this was normal behavior. She continues to behave like that in bursts, and then the more absurd part becomes Connie’s calm reaction to these behaviors. Piece by piece, you get to understand more about how disturbed they are, and why.
  • Merrikat’s belief in magical powers that keep her safe are both hard to believe and comforting. I kept waiting for someone to say one of her three magic words, as if that was the only way that anything could go wrong.
  • I wanted Charles to be taught a lesson. I guess it happened, but a part of me wanted it to be more dramatic and more crushing. I’m a sucker for an evil character doing clearly evil things and then getting caught red-handed and punished. I know that’s simplistic, but I still like it and am a little disappointed when I don’t get that satisfaction.

I love the fact that I’m finding books to enjoy, thanks to my kids. Life is good.

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