Thursday, March 4, 2010

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (1962): Everybody Has a Poison Heart

Shirley Jackson is one of the best "horror" writers ever and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) is one of the best covers ever (thanks to artist William Teason). Something about the midnight blue and the girl's hands, her one staring eye and windswept hair, the kitty-cat ears and the title font (so reminiscent of Rorschach's journal) captivate me. Two young sisters, Merricat and Constance Blackwood, and their ill uncle live alone in an old house after the rest of the family had been poisoned years before. Slowly the real story of what happened to the family is revealed and why the townspeople view the Blackwoods with anger and suspicion. I love these kind of subtle chillers with creepy, maybe even murderous, young women as unreliable narrators.

See the black-and-white art of the current paperback edition with a more literal cover. Again, give me the strange evocative painting from the original paperback. "The Lottery" and The Haunting of Hill House are Jackson's more famous works, but We Have Always Lived in the Castle ranks right up there with them. A must-read!


VZ1 said...

Agreed. That first cover is amazing. And thanks for the recommendation; I've read the Lottery and Hill House, but was unfamiliar with this one. Great post!

A. Louise said...

i'm so glad you wrote on this title, one of my favorites! i LOVE that cover. alas, my 80s Penguin edition is not so captivating.

Will Errickson said...

Thanks for the support guys! I appreciate you reading this stuff. Just scanned a good handful of titles so more is coming!

AmandaMLyons said...

The original cover is either the same one or very similar to the one used for an Anchor Bay release of Shock. I loved the image when i got the video back in the day.

highwayknees said...

Her follow-up to Hill House is also her second best novel IMHO. I am also partial to The Sundial and The Road Through the Wall,an earlier one. But really-you cant go wrong!
The cover IS amazing and haunts me still as the great painting it is. So great in fact that it was re-used a few times-like as mentioned for Shock the not so great Bava film.
Also ,it's interesting to note that the new movie Stoker with Nicole Kidman has a very similar storyline comparable to the Jackson novel. The lead character India behaving very much like the strange Merricat.