Reading Level: Middle Grade
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 5 hours and 32 minute (160 pages)
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Release Date: March 22, 2010 (originally published 1962)
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Audiobook from Audible.com
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
I have had this book in my to be read pile for quite a while. I was excited to finally read it. The story was a bit slow but does a good job of showing the cruelty of a mob and the isolation of those with mental illness.
I listened to this on audiobook and the audiobook was well done. The narrator does an excellent job with emotion and different character voices.
Merricat, her sister Constance, and her Uncle Julian live in isolation on the Blackwood estate. The Blackwoods are shunned after an incident with arsenic in a sugar bowl left four of the Blackwoods dead. Constance was accused of the murder but has since been acquitted. However the town continues to scorn them. Merricat and Constance could care less, living a calm and quiet life. That is until their cousin Charles shows up and drags the Blackwoods back into the spotlight.
This was an interesting book but fairly slow and with a story that doesn’t really wrap up at the end. The majority of the characters have some sort of mental illness going on. Merricat is a sociopath and wishes everyone in the village dead all the time despite being very loyal and protective of her sister. She also practices some sympathetic magic and does odd quirky things believing that they will keep her and Constance stay safe. Uncle Julian survived the poisoning but hasn’t been right since constantly forgetting who is alive and dead and what he is doing.
Constance is strangely passive and agoraphobic. Constance can never make herself leave the house or garden because of this phobia. She is also strangely accepting of Merricat’s strange sociopathic behavior and goes out of her way to provide a loving and safe environment for Merricat.
As you can imagine with their strangeness they are strongly persecuted in the small New England town they live in. Parts of this book really show the vileness of humanity and how cruel a mob of humans can become.
The plot was a bit unfinished feeling. Some bad things happen to Merricat and Constance but they both take the events in stride, only changing their routines in small ways with no thought to the future. They both seem perfectly happy to eke out a living in isolation. There is really no end to the story, it just stops.
Overall this was an okay story. It’s a bit slow and doesn’t really have much of a plot per say. It does show an interesting look at small town New England life and how people who were different were persecuted in very harsh ways. Additionally it shows the different aspects to a sociopath’s personality; Merricat is both loving and terrifying. It’s a quick read, so while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it it’s not a bad read. If it sounds interesting to you give it a try, it’s well enough written if a bit slow.