17 March 2010

Book Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Title: We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Author: Shirley Jackson
Published: 1962 Pages:  146

Buy  |  Borrow  |  Accept  |  Avoid

Plot Synopsis
Merricat, her sister Constance, and Uncle Julian all live together in the Blackwood family home, "rehearsing past trauma and fending off change and self-knowledge."  Each family member has created their own reality, which mixes with those of their housemates, overlaps, but does not completely imitate.

My Thoughts
I would not like to ruin this gem of a novella for you, so my thoughts and the above plot synopsis may feel a bit vague if you have not yet read the book (and by the way SHAME on you, now go read it and come back).

One of the most intriguing aspects of the novella for me is the voice.  Mary Katherine Blackwood (Merricat) narrates the story, but while we are directly told she is eighteen years old, the narration sounds more like a 13 year old.  This gap between age and voice fascinates me, and I found the disparity directly applicable to plot and character development.  The difference between what Merricat thinks she is, actually is, and says she is creates a mood the reader can not escape from, assuming the reader would even want to escape.

While the book is disturbing to the nth degree, I could not put it down and I rejoiced in the heavy, ominous, disturbing, frightful aura of reading.

Memorable Scene:  The most disturbing image for me was the book Merricat had nailed to a tree - one of her protective talismans designed to keep her and Constance safe.  There is something ridiculously disturbing about a book nailed to a tree.

Memorable Scene #2:  Merricat engages in a fantasy at one point where she is sitting at the table with her family and they are all catering to her, saying things like Mary Katherine is never to be punished, asking if she wants or needs anything, even taking items away from the other children to give to her.  Creepy.

Other Reviews
If I've missed yours, let me know!

A Striped Armchair; Hey Lady!; Bart's Bookshelf; things mean a lot; Fizzy Thoughts; books i done read; Bibliolatry; book-a-rama;

FTC Disclosure: Bought it. Take that bitches.
Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions,


  1. I read this one some time ago, and loved it. (My review can be found here.)

    And, of course, the cover is FAB.

  2. Can't wait to read this. I hope to include it as part of RIP this year!

  3. I gave you an award! You can find it here.

    Tara SG -- <a href="http://25hourbooks.com</a>25hourbooks.com</a>

  4. The talisman thing WAS creepy! So much about this book was, and yet like you I enjoyed it immensely.

  5. Yes, Merricat was one crazy chick. My review is here:


  6. REALLY wanna read this one! I've had it on my radar forever, so I'm not sure what's been stopping me. Thanks for the push!

  7. No I haven't read this and yes I am hanging my head in shame.
    And you just reminded me I have her other book The Haunting of Hill House still to be read!
    Great review Trisha!

  8. I haven't read anything by Shirley Jackson in years. This sounds intriguing!

  9. Shirley Jackson is just so deliciously creepy! I really need to reread her. I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle during high school, and it took me a while to warm up to it, but the ending is definitely worth it. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  10. I do have this sitting on my shelves just waiting to be read.

  11. I have been avoiding this book (not sure why - maybe it's the kind of bizarre cover) but we seem to have remarkably similar taste in books, so I'll have to overcome my cover inhibitions and get it!

  12. Bibliolatrist - I linked to your review! I agree about the cover; it's wonderfully creepy.

    Amanda - Definitely a good choice for the RIP Challenge!

    Tara - Thank you so much for the award!

    Nymeth - That was the best part for me. I just loved the idea of burying things and placing items around the house to ward off evil (or uh everything).

    Chris - I linked to your review! Merricat is such a fascinating character in that she's totally freaked out but oddly sympathetic.

    Andi - You definitely should read this. It's just such a lovely little experience.

    Jenny Girl - I haven't read anything by Jackson other than this and of course The Lottery. I will be reading more of her now though.

    Stephanie - You should definitely give it a try!

    Clare - I would re-read it if I were you; I don't know that I would have appreciated it when I was in high school, at least not like now.

    Jenners - It's calling to you now. Can't you hear it? *readmereadmereadme*

    Rhapsody - While I love the cover I have, I do admit that it is a bit different...I mean that the cover looks very YAL, but the text itself didn't feel YAL to me...if that makes sense.

  13. Everytime I see the cover of this book, I squeal in delight. I must read it!

  14. Christina - I agree! You must.

  15. I love novellas, so I'll have to check this out!

  16. I really would J.T. It was such a deep story for so few pages.

  17. I've read Jackson's domestic memoir but I just don't know if my weakling self can handle her more disturbing works.

  18. Kristen - Awwww! I love disturbing so this was right up my alley!

  19. I really want to read this one. That cover is very spooky and/or disturbing.


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