What an exquisite piece of literature. This book evoked so many feelings from the very beginning. Our narrator, Mary Katherine Blackwood is so loveably dark and superstitious, that I can fully understand why some readers may consider her an unreliable narrator. But I believe the contrary.
I believe that Mary Katherine is a reliable narrator and that she sees truths that other people ignore. Sure, her use of “magic” as a means to try and control her environment seems silly, but I like her. I admire her. There is a strength to this young girl (she’s only eighteen); a strength and willingness to act, weird though the action she chooses to take may seem the reader. She is also strong because she does not allow herself to be affected by the outside world. Maybe at one time she did, but since then she has built safeguards around herself. These safeguards make her seemingly impervious to the rude villagers she must expose herself to on a weekly basis. Moving on from though.
I’ve heard it said about this book that it is a modern gothic romance. There are a few elements of the book that allow it to be placed, very generally, in the gothic romance genre. There is the castle itself. The setting must be dark and brooding and as much a living character as the people characters. There is the bad, bad man. Cousin Charles fits the bill quite nicely (evil, evil man). Then, there is the damsel in distress. Well, no, that’s not right. There is the silly female who allows herself to be trapped. Constance is rather silly. These elements are typical of the gothic romance genre, and though they do allow for the book to be lumped in with others, I don’t think it’s a perfect fit.
But this book is dark, so applying the word gothic is very appropriate. But it’s dark in that it shows how incredibly ugly people can be towards those that have misconceptions placed upon them by a third party (like the media). The people of the village are ugly to Mary Katherine and Constance because of a tragic incident in the Blackwood house six years ago that Constance is blamed for. Mary Katherine and Constance rarely leave the house (Mary Katherine only leaves because they need food) because of this. But when given the chance, the ugly villagers wreck havoc on the girls.
From this information it would seem that the girls never leave because they don’t want to deal with the animosity. And maybe, to an extent this is true – this is probably why they initially never left. But the girls love their home; they love their life. They are happy, well Mary Katherine is, happy with the way things are. Constance has moments of doubt, and I never quite figured out where they stem from, but she is happy, too. People simply don’t leave them alone. They pester them and they are rude to them, even though these two girls have never done anything wrong to these ugly people. And when tragedy strikes again, these two strong, but silly, women pick up their lives and continue on. Happier than ever.
That’s all I’ll say about the book for now, but there are so many other wonderful comments and insights to be made about this book. Jackson writes beautifully; so beautifully that you can’t help but finish the book.