This is a novel by Shirley Jackson about two sisters, Merricat
and Constance, in a large house in a small village. The rest of their
family is dead.
Merricat narrates the story, and she tells us about their uncle
Julian is living with them, how people react to the family, how they
have visitors that they don't love.
These visitors are people who (due to ties with the family) feel
they have an obligation to visit them or be nice to them. Urges to be
politically correct are timeless, it seems. Like the rest of the
village, however, they really fear them.
Some people tell me that this is a mystery book but I don't,
really. Well, sort of. There's murder in it and tension and plot. I
thought it was pretty clear from early on who the killer is, if you
think about that too much (so don't), but that's not the whole point
of the story. It's both about what happened earlier (the murder) and,
more importantly, what happens after.
It was written in 1962, and I guess it shows (in a good way). The
surroundings and supporting cast speaks of an ending time while the
main characters are just a few years ahead of their time. Some of
Shirley's other stories, like the Lottery or Flower Garden focus
more clearly on the clash between two times that the mid-twentieth
century was, but this one has a strong trace of it as well.
I had never read a fictional writer with a grasp of human
psychology that felt so real and so close before I started reading
Shirley Jacksons books.
Oh, if I could but travel back in time and give a younger myself
this book! I would have needed it then, but on the other hand, I
really needed it when I did read it the first time. It's a beautiful
book as well. Scary at times and delightfully happy at times.