We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle cover

I had no plans to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, not so soon after reading The Haunting of Hill House anyway, but it almost leapt off a library display at me as I walked in.

Happily I enjoyed this one much more than Hill House. Jackson is known for her quirky characters and relationships and that’s exactly what we have in this book.

The Blackwood family consists of Constance and her younger sister Mary Katherine (Merricat) and their Uncle Julian. They live in a large and grand house where Constance spends her time cooking and Merricat does the food shopping in the nearby village. This is an onerous task as the Blackwoods are more or less outcasts. Uncle Julian is confined to a wheelchair and spends his time looking through his papers.

The family had been much larger and after a disastrous meal there had been only the three survivors. When a member of the extended family turns up things go from bad to worse. Cousin Charles is only interested in the money that he thinks is in a safe. He’s getting in between the two sisters who had until then been devoted to and protective of each other.

It’s a bit like a mystery/fairy tale/horror story rolled into one. A great read.

I’ve just realised that these books probably count as classics and would count towards the Classics Club. What do you think, would you count them as classics?

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

Vile Bodies cover

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh was first published in 1930 and it’s one of his books which satirizes the Bright Young Things of London in that era. The well connected ‘chinless wonders’ get up to all sorts of nonsense again and again. I really enjoyed Scoop which is another of his in the same vein, in fact I actually laughed out loud quite a lot as I read Scoop, if I’m remembering correctly. Vile Bodies didn’t quite hit the spot for me though. I suspect it’s my age, because now the silly stuff going on in the book and the characters peopling it seem too close to reality to be just a bit of fun.

At one point Waugh mentions that London is run by three families of brewers and the book is actually dedicated to Bryan and Diana Guinness, they were some of the Bright Young Things for whom rules didn’t apply and no doubt provided lots of gossip columnists with plenty of scandal in their time. Diana was Diana Mitford who left Bryan to run off with Oswald Mosley – that was even madder than anything in this book! Waugh was on the fringes of the Devonshire/Mitford set, he obviously got a lot of copy from them.

Mind you things do change, nowadays I think that London is run by Russians and Arabs, and the rules don’t apply to them either, which isn’t any better. Yes I am grumpy about it all!

I read this one for the Classics Club Challenge. Another one bites the dust.