I usually read a Shirley Jackson in October; well, I have the last two years. However, this year it moved to November as my choice for the prompt: ‘a book published before 2000’.
Shirley Jackson novels are always strangely compelling, if not a little weird. And ‘The Sundial’ is no exception. In fact, it is a clever study of human nature, especially in strange times. The Holloran family are told, by the long dead original patriarch, that the world is about to end and only those in the house will survive. This throws the occupants of the house into a strange ‘world’ of preparing for this event.
It has all of Jackson’s favourite things: a family with secrets, a house of secrets, and all the spooky vibes. It was a real page-turner and even though at points, I was not entirely convinced I fully understood what was going on, I still enjoyed reading every single page.
I have only ever read Shirley Jackson books in October. She is just an author I associate with these Autumn nights since picking up ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ last October. I am also going to make a bold statement – ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ is better than ‘The Haunting of Hill House’.
‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ may not be as openly ‘horror’ as ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, but Jackson’s excellent writing builds a chilling tale with excellent black comedy. As I read this novel, I enjoyed the fact that you never know exactly what is ‘reality’. There is so much mystery surronding the Blackwood family and their dark secret – and they let it engulf them such that, even as the reader, there are points where you don’t know if you can believe what you are reading.
However, there is also a lot of charm to this book as you build empathy for the characters. After all, if the village you live in has isolated you from society, then that could well skew your idea of quite how live should be. And, just as with Hill House, the Blackwood House is as much of a character as the ‘people’ of the book.
Throughout the story, there are hints to the truth. Although, by the end, I think there are still some loose ends – depending on how you take the tale.
For me, the thing that really freaked me out was the little spider icon at the close of he novel. After all, I really do not like spiders.
With Netflix releasing its adaptation of ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, I decided it was time that I tried to read some of Jackson’s work.
I am usually not one for spooky novels but, as I have started to want to read books that fit seasons this year, I made a change. I could not put this book down once I started it. Shirley Jackson writes in a wonderfully accessible style which sucks you in – and also adds to how much she manages to spook her readers. Although it was clear that the TV adaptation was only really inspired by, rather than fully based, on the book both are wonderful in their own way.
Again, I do not want to spoil the novel for anyone who may want to read it. However, if you do, you will be as drawn into the mystery of Hill House as its inhabitants. I did not find it a terrifying read but it certainly can play on your mind as the story unfolds. What is real in the house and what isn’t? Is everyone having the same experience or is there more to it?
I am certainly glad that I chose to read this book in October, as it is idea for autumn. I am also glad that I did not assume I knew the story from the Netflix series – well, for me anyway. So, I have now discovered another author whose books I would like to read more.
Have you read any Shirley Jackson novels? What are your thoughts?