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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Death in the Castle

Author: Pearl S. Buck
Originally Published: 1965
Courtney’s Edition: 1967
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Death in the CastleSir Richard Sedgeley and Lady Mary have come upon hard times, and are no longer able to afford to keep up their castle. The castle has been in the Sedgeley family for five hundred years – and before that, belonged to the royal family for five hundred years. But a castle doesn’t make much income – few tourists come to this out-of-the-way castle in the middle of the English countryside, so Sir Richard has been looking at other opportunities. When a young American appears and offers to buy the castle in order to transform it into a museum, Sir Richard, Lady Mary and their two faithful servants starts questioning whether there is anything else they can do to keep the castle – including searching for lost treasure with the help of the castle ghosts.

Death in the Castle sits right on the edge of being almost a ghost story. It’s also almost a gothic novel. It’s certainly got the setting right – an old English castle, with dungeons, the frequent mention of ghosts, windows that don’t belong to any rooms… It’s just missing the atmosphere. But what it lack in atmosphere, it makes up in other areas of the novel.

Quite the cast of memorable characters in this book, I have to say. There’s Sir Richard and his wife, Lady Mary. Sir Richard is somewhat manic, and (as it turns out) rather crazy. Lady Mary is a sweet, almost timid woman, who turns a blind eye to her husband’s madness, and convinces herself (instead) that the castle is haunted. Then there’s Wells and his granddaughter Kate. Wells is the grumpy old butler, who has had to deal with (and hide) his master’s madness for many a year, while Kate is a bubbly young woman who loves Sir Richard and Lady Mary, but has no idea what’s really going on in the castle. And then there is John Blayne, the dashing young American who is trying to buy the castle, in order to transport it from the rural English countryside to … Connecticut.

The plot was a little unsurprising, but I wish it had gone a little bit more in depth in regards to Sir Richard’s madness. I would’ve loved to see more of the world from his perspective when he believed he was the king of England and had to defend his castle from the intruders (the Americans). It was such a short book, and quite the quick read, that I would’ve happily read more of what was going on in the lives of the characters.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:10 pm January 27, 2009.
Category: Gothic, Short Stories
Book Author(s):

  • Katherine

    The only Pearl Buck I’ve read is the Good Earth… Buck went to the same college I did (but 90 years before), and you’d think she was the only person to ever graduate from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. It’s interesting that she wrote a Gothic novel.

  • Court

    Katherine – I haven’t read any of Buck’s other books. Was The Good Earth enjoyable?

  • Melissa @ Melissa’s Bookshelf

    Oooh, this sounds really good. I’ll have to check it out–great review!