THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is arguably Shirley Jackson’s second-best known work next to THE LOTTERY — partially because of the film adaptation THE HAUNTING (which she was on set to consult) and, perhaps, because of Mike Flanagan’s wild deviation of a TV adaptation. (A fine series that, sadly, I feel has little to do with its source material.) However, I found WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE — her final novel before she sadly passed away — to be far more affecting.
WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE harbors many of Jackson’s tropes: gothic horror, family strife, New England iciness and societal rejection, agoraphobia, and decaying homesteads. However, it also feels like the apotheosis of her works, that this story of two sisters living together in their family’s house in Vermont, their mother and father, aunt and brother, dead due to poison before the youngest daughter, Mary Katherine “Merricat”, became a teenager. Only the uncle survived, barely, and they house and take care of him.
It’s a riveting, wild read, one that — while it received wide recognition and critical acclaim when it was released — appears to have faded into the stacks.