From regular guest blogger Colm Redmond
“I shall commence, I think, with a slight exaggeration and go on from there into an outright lie. Constance, my dear?”
“Yes, Uncle Julian?”
“I am going to say that my wife was beautiful.”
Constance washed the red and white tablecloth and the shirts of Uncle Julian’s which she wore, and while they were hanging in the garden to dry I wore a tablecloth with a yellow border, which looked very handsome with my gold belt. Our mother’s old brown shoes were safely put away in my corner of the kitchen, since in the warm summer days I went barefoot like Jonas.
observations: This is a novel of mysteries and secrets, about a strange family living on the outskirts of a small town. It starts with Merricat – Mary Katherine, eighteen, the younger sister and narrator – describing her weekly shopping expedition, usually the only direct contact the family has with the townsfolk. Her relatives never leave their big old house. So you’d normally assume that she must be the normal one…
Her only friend, Jonas, does indeed go barefoot – because
Their sinister history unfolds slowly, but grippingly. Jackson – whose best known novel is The Haunting Of Hill House, twice filmed as The Haunting – knows pace and suspense, and she beautifully treads that fine line between tantalising and merely frustrating the reader. She could have relied upon a courtroom drama (almost infallibly engrossing, after all) to tell the back-story, but she’s way too subtle for that – as anyone who’s seen the 1963 film The Haunting, with its invisible terrors, will know. There’s also a lot of sly humour, some of it black but much of it just mischievous, like the first extract above.
The top picture shows a 1968 advert, from Pins And Needles magazine, for an Elizabeth Barry Boutique dress pattern. The dress can be made from the tablecloth in the inset pic.
When Merricat’s best red and white “dress” wasn’t in the wash, perhaps she was aiming for the look Brigitte Bardot sported in 1959, as shown in the other advert. BB wore that dress in 1959 for the second of her four weddings, so it’s surprising there are no better pictures of it than this one, above right.
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