Book Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

89724Title: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Author: Shirley Jackson

Genre: Horror, Classics, Fiction, Gothic, Mystery

Publisher: Penguin Classics

Published: 1962

Page Amount: 160 pages

Blurb From GoodreadsMerricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

Why Read: This book has been on my TBR a while. I absolutely love horror books, and this cover has always stuck out to me as a classic to read. What prompted me more recently, however, was reading a Gilmore Girl “fanfiction” rewrite of The Lottery. Shirley Jackson has this gift was writing particularly disturbing pieces of fiction that don’t have physical monsters, but rather the the metaphorical depictions of them. As such, how could I miss reading this?

Review: Going in, I knew this book would be awkward to read. Characters called both Mary-Katherine and Merricat, delusional uncles and either insanely reclusive or straight-out-insane sisters make it so. I had somewhat forgotten that the book was written quite a long time ago so it has that tone of voice that reminded me of the “olden times.” That style of writing is not a particular fan-favourite of mine so I was minutely irritated by that the whole book – but I utterly adored everything else.

Part of what made this book so fantastic was the interesting way of making a character not develop throughout the whole story. Merricat is the main protagonist and so it through her eyes that we, the reader, experience everything. She originally shows us her world as it is, what the village is like, and how she handles the deviations from normalcy in her routine. When a new character, Charles, appears: she has a choice to make? Handle the situation as she would or resort to drastic measures… perhaps ones she has or hasn’t made before.

The plot deals with anticipation, and with threats of confrontation (but rarely any in reality). That’s one of the things that both taunted and kept me intrigued. Even though there are threats from new visitors and the daily cruelties of the villagers: there is no blood spilt. The characters react in mostly the same fashion, and although ultimately the relationship between the village and the castle does change: it’s not as though anything is resolved. If anything: it’s LESS resolved. If you do happen to be in the mood for something confusing and slightly disturbing: look no further!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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