Thursday, January 20, 2011

Old Books You Should Have Read, Part...5?

One of the members of our teen book club suggested that we read We Have Always Lived in the Castle (by Shirley Jackson). She didn't remember the author's name right off the bat, and I initially thought she meant another book with "castle" in its title, Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, a book published in the 1940s and re-released in 2003 as a movie tie-in. This second book is also a good choice for a teen book club--it's about two proud but poor teen girls who live in a moldering castle with their eccentric writer father, his nature-worshipping second wife, and their little brother. The father has a massive case of writer's block, and hasn't published in years, and the family is all but destitute. When two handsome and wealthy young men move into the neighborhood, the entire household collaborates to snare one of them as a spouse for the beautiful older sister. Obviously not a feminist tale on that account (it was written in the '40s), but the younger, spunkier sister has aspirations to be a writer, and the book is entertainingly from her point of view.

Jackson's book is quite a bit creepier--again, about two sisters, who live an exceedingly reclusive life sequestered in Blackwood House, caring for their ill and aging Uncle Julian. The narrative, which is carried by the younger sister, Mary Katherine (Merricat), gradually reveals that there is a sinister tragedy in their past, that the town holds a grudge against the family, and that in fact they are reclusive for very good reasons.

As long as we're talking about old books (that you should read) with "castle" in the title, try Blandings Castle, by P. G. Wodehouse, a set of 12 short stories incorporating that hilariously clueless man about town, Bertie Wooster, and his enigmatic puppet master butler, Jeeves. Or do a search of your own in our library catalog for "castle," and see what treasures you unearth!

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