Oh no, said Merricat, you'll poison me.'
That's what the village children chant when they see Mary Katherine Blackwood, who is 18 years old, and lives with her sister Constance. 'I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cap mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.'
I love this cover, far more atmospheric than my free-with-The-Times Penguin edition. And I'm not going to say too much here because one of the best things about this book is the way Shirley Jackson drip-drip-drips clues about the two strange sisters who live alone in a rather wonderful house. (Eating rather wonderful meals because Constance is an excellent cook ... don't you love books that describe rum cakes for tea and rose-coloured china, and tiny thin hot pancakes for breakfast?)
It builds up to a climax that's reminiscent of Jackson's horrifying story The Lottery. And as she leaves plenty of room for the reader's imagination to go off at tangents, I'm still puzzling over the Blackwoods and how Merricat got to be like she is ... doesn't the father sound overbearing?doesn't the parents' marriage sound as if something wasn't quite right? There aren't any answers, just niggling, unsettling hints to worry your mind.
It was a delight to read something short and gripping - you could read it in an evening - after unrewarding weeks plodding through The Lacuna.
Which really wasn't worth it.