Whiskey, don't open this post/read this until you finish.
This is was a reread for me. My first review can be found here.
For this read, I knew how the book ended, so the shocking sense of bewildered confusion, the "what the hell just happened, I need to reread this a few more times," didn't distract me from really digging into the story.
Shirley Jackson was brilliant. She suffused her stories with such disorienting terror - nothing is explained, everything is subject to multiple interpretations. Did any of it happen, or was all of it in Eleanor's head? What did Theo see when she and Eleanor were out on their walk and the world changed into a dead place, until they stumbled on the picnic that wasn't there.
Was Eleanor ever quite sane?
Now, Eleanor thought, perceiving that she was lying sideways on the bed in the black darkness, holding with both hands to Theodora’s hand, holding so tight she could feel the fine bones of Theodora’s fingers, now, I will not endure this. They think to scare me. Well, they have. I am scared, but more than that, I am a person, I am human, I am a walking reasoning humorous human being and I will take a lot from this lunatic filthy house but I will not go along with hurting a child, no, I will not; I will by God get my mouth to open right now and I will yell I will I will yell “STOP IT,” she shouted, and the lights were on the way they had left them and Theodora was sitting up in bed, startled and disheveled.
“What?” Theodora was saying. “What, Nell? What?”
“God God,” Eleanor said, flinging herself out of bed and across the room to stand shuddering in a corner, “God God—whose hand was I holding?”
Really, it's best to not read this book at night in the dark.