Shirley Jackson – Mysterious and Murderous, as always – 3 Stars

That Shirley Jackson sure is an interesting character. Today I finished We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

As this isn’t my first Jackson story, I had that notion walking in… but she still astonishes me.

Jackson writes in a unique way, for certain. She takes her time in revealing secrets, allowing the narrator Mary Catherine to share what she ordinarily would in her own timid way.

As is customary with a Shirley Jackson story, the words are simple. The plot intense. Horror written around the corner. But in a fact-of-the-matter fashion. I guarantee you that We Have Always Lived in the Castle will take you, at most, a few days or sittings to finish.

The family at the centre of the plot are the Blackwoods and despite being the centre of the plot, they certainly are far from the centre of their small town. “Everyone in the village has always hated us,” Mary Catherine says. Very little of that statement seems to be in Mary’s head. Why? Because their household is notorious for being both mysterious and murderous.

I’ve rated We¬† Have Always Lived in the Castle 3 out of 5 stars because the story is twisted, dangerous, and enjoyable, but I was, at points, frustrated with the pace. Further, the story concluded in a way I found unsatisfying – as if waiting for something that Jackson was in no mood to provide. And I say that as someone who absolutely adored (if anyone can absolutely adore) The Lottery.

I would recommend Jackson’s writing nonetheless. She has a voice to be drank quickly and cautiously, just as her characters would urge.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Critique – 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

Mona Awad’s 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl has some amusing quips here and there, but overall I found it a bit disjointed and lacking punch or flair.

Awad’s novel is written in pseudo short-story format. However, the short stories had the same themes and most of the same characters. What added to the unusual format was that deciphering time frames was never easy… which might not be a bad thing but in this case it didn’t help the author.

I respect the power of making a reader feel awkward or uncomfortable, or any strong emotion for that matter – well done. But the novel took this furtber; I must stress that the narrator was hugely unlikeable. It’s hard to enjoy a book, play, or story of any sort when the protagonist is hard to be around. Even a murderer, when described in a certain fashion, can be likeable. Sweeney Todd, anyone?

The ending, though I won’t divulge it, was disappointing and sudden. The reader spends the novel hoping that, through all of her self-reflection and often hatred, that narrator Elizabeth, will find a healthy light (and I do mean, light, not body, lifestyle, etc) to view herself in. It was less than iluminating. Not all endings have to be happy, but this one was also far from satisfying.

I’d had a few people recommend the book and felt conflicted while reading it because I simply wasn’t feeling what I expected to.

In fact, I read several reviews after finishing the book’s final page because I thought I was being overly harsh in my criticism. After seeing that so many had the same reaction, I felt less horrible about my 2 star, out of 5 rating.

To learn more about Awad and her work, visit this site.

Rating: 2 of 5 stars