** spoiler alert ** I read this book in one sitting. Could. not. put. it. down! It helped that the whole book was only 146 pages but still, it's completely engrossing and provided a very insightful peek into the mechanics of a mentally unstable persons brain. How did Shirley Jackson write this genre so well? Was she slightly crazy herself??
Young Merricat was one twisted girl. I kept thinking I should totally hate her as a character ~after what she did to her family, are you kidding me? ~ but somehow I don't???? Maybe I'm the twisted one?! Like everyone slightly mad (or more than slightly) she's genius at manipulating her world to get everyone and everything set up to suit her needs. She loves her sister Constance. And only her sister. Wait ~ her cat too ~ but that's seriously the scope of her affections. It's all about getting Constance to herself. She shrewdly recognized the dangers the outside world presented to that goal and set about protecting herself & her family from any interference. Making sure they're "locked in," that the fence is secure, burying her little curses/charms around the property, etc. It's the perfect situation for a psychopath too since her sister has an anxiety disorder and doesn't/can't/won't leave the property. In the end, Merricat gets her wish although it's so sad to see what the town people do to their home (and all their heirlooms) plus heartbreaking that it's at the expense of her sister having any chance at a normal life.
As much as I felt for Constance, I did not want her to get sucked in & taken advantage of by her gold digging cousin Charles. Easy to tell he was bad news from the moment he set foot on their estate. So gross. But childlike of Merricat, to not recognize the danger of fire that fateful night. Also, confused a bit about her relationship with Uncle Julian? He spoke of Merricat as if she had died & Merricat in turn, had zero interaction with him, wouldn't go in his room, speak to him, anything?? Was it a guilt reaction? A choice imposed by Uncle Julian? Did he realize what Merricat had done & refused to have anything to do with her? I was never quite sure.
All in all, a really fascinating book. So many examples of human psychology ~ I especially enjoyed Mrs. Wright who couldn't contain her curiosity about the poisonings & despite knowing "better," couldn't stop herself from wanting all the "gory" details. Uncle Julian happy to supply them. That was brilliant. This book is sure to hold up to the test of time!