We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson (8 September — 10 September)

What a delightfully creepy book! The book is narrated by our protagonist, Mary Katherine Blackwood, who opens the book with the statement that everyone in her family but herself and her sister Constance is dead. That’s no fun. Mary Katherine also remarks on some library books sitting on a shelf: “I wondered whether I would have chosen differently if I had known that these were the last books, the ones which would stand forever on our kitchen shelf.” What?? What has happened? Mary Katherine will tell you.

The story jumps back five months to explain just how those ended up being the last books, and also why the Blackwoods are nearly all dead, and there’s some good story in between those two stories and it’s all just wonderful. I don’t want to say anything else lest I spoil this short, entertaining book!

Suffice it to say that even when I had the story figured out, or thought I did, Jackson managed to keep me on my toes, and everything in the story just has this strange, creepy vibe to it that makes you wonder just what is really going on in this house. I’m going to have to find some more Shirley Jackson stories, stat!

Rating: 9/10
(RIP Challenge)

See also:
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?
things mean a lot
books i done read
A Striped Armchair

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

The Stepford Wives, by Ira Levin (25 August)

I needed to take a break from Calamity Physics − it’s pretty long and even though I’m halfway through I’m still not entirely sure what the book is about − so I decided to take a quick romp through the 1970s. This book, at only 145 pages, didn’t take very long to read and was pretty entertaining.

I’ve seen both of the Stepford Wives movies and they’re pretty different, so I wanted to know just what the book was about. If you haven’t seen them, what we have here is a town called Stepford wherein all of the wives are subservient and domestic, convinced that their only purpose in life is to keep the house clean for their husbands. New arrivals Joanna and Walter Eberhart are part of the women’s-lib movement and, once they realize the dominance of the men’s club in town, plan to convert the husbands over to their side and open up the association to women as well. Joanna makes friends with a couple of other independent women, Bobbie and Charmaine, and they try to gather the wives of the town into a women’s club, with no luck.

Soon after Charmaine spends a weekend alone with her husband, she becomes one of the Stepford wives herself and Bobbie and Joanna worry for their safety. Their husbands reassure them that nothing’s wrong, but something very clearly is.

The book is really a lot more vague than I thought it would be − I ended up filling in a lot of blanks with scenes I remembered from the movies. It probably would have been better had I read this first and filled those blanks in on my own. The ending of the book is much more open-ended than those of the movies, but it’s still quite sinister. I like the fact that Levin leaves these things open to interpretation, but I wish I didn’t already have some interpretations in my head.

Rating: 7/10