Unfortunately I couldn’t find an image of the 1960’s version, which was the only copy my library had, and which was last checked out in 1977! So I’ve gone with the newest UK edition, which has just been released.
My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenent, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.
If you haven’t had the chance to read this one then, beware this review will touch on spoilerish details, it’s almost impossible to talk about the book and not do. I’ll quote the publishers blurb first, as a spolier-break!
Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods – until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night.
Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears.
Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.
First off, this is the most damn disturbing book I’ve read in along time, and in so many ways as well, not just for the story as unfolds and spills it’s secrets, but also for the way you begin to care (and sometimes root) for people you really, really, shouldn’t.
The story opens with the quote above, with Mary Katherine (Merrikat) starting to tell the story of why her family is dead.
The truth takes a long time to discover, and bit by bit, while we do, we are drawn in to Merrikat’s world. Truth being subjective thing, as Merrikat is not the most reliable narrator, and it’s obvious from the start, things are not quite as she would like us to believe.
Even when the ‘truth’ is revealed, and even though you will have suspected it for a while, you will still have a little shudder.
The rest of the characters are just as bad, Uncle Julian, is obviously a fruitcake, and really not aware of the ‘real’ world. Cousin Charles is just a gready b*stard only out for what he can get, (interestingly he is probably the only truly sane person in the book, but you don’t really notice this at the time, as he is a thoroughly dislikeable chap, and you do find yourself siding with Merikat about him.)
Even Merrikat’s sister, the one the villagers believe to be guilty of carrying out the heinous crime of murdering her family, and the only ‘good’ character, is clearly agoraphobic and only just clinging to her sanity.
This is a book that is incredibly uncomfortably to read, but yet you will. Oh yes you will.
Creepy, disturbing stuff.