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FriedEgg

FriedEgg

We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates This short and somewhat disturbing story is my first by this author and quite different to anything else I've ever read.

It is a tale of two sisters, both psycologically damaged in different ways, and how their life becomes changed despite their intention that everything should always remain unchanged,the same as it was before.

Since the death of their parents, brother and aunt six years earlier by arsnic poisoning in their sugar, they have lived on in their large estate with their uncle Julian who barely survived. The eldest sister Constance, who always prepares the food, was charged with murdering her family but was aquitted. Despite this, most people in the village are firmly convinced of her guilt and despise them. Constance is agoraphobic and never leaves the house so her younger sister Katherine (or Merricat as she is more commonly known) goes down to the village twice a week for groceries and library books and must face the stares and taunting from the villagers.

The book is written in the first person perspective of Merricat and the reader discovers her deep seated fear of change (to such an extent that she stops her father's watch so that it always shows the same time), her childish and violent tantrums when something annoys her and her dreamlike fantasies in which she believes they could live on the moon and their lives be perfect. We also see her use of made-up witchcraft in which she attempts to invoke words of power and bury personal objects to protect them strangers.

Trouble begins to brew when her sister Constance begins to contemplate that their lifestyle might not be for the best and allows their long estranged cousin Charles to stay with them indefinitely...

This isn't a horror story, but it has sinister aspects and a creeping sense of unease. There is a mystery which is unfolded and a transformation of their circumstances towards a fairytale like ending.