I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
by Shirley Jackson
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

Merricat 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 curiousity 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.


This is the first Shirley Jackson book I have ever read, and it was an interesting introduction to her kind of curious and creepy world - with characters who act a little strangely, and a view of the human race that is not at all kind. I am still not sure what I feel about this book actually. It was a gently harrowing read, with a heroine in Merricat Blackwood who I have such weirdly contradictory feelings for. On the one hand, I’m intensely sympathetic towards her, and yet at times, I find her very annoying. Although her instincts for the most part are right on, especially when it came to one character who was so unlikable, I couldn’t help but root for Merricat’s murderous thoughts about him.

The novel is a study in strange characters. There is a mob-like, and very unpleasant group of people who live in town and look down on the Blackwoods. The author captured a vivid realism in the small town gossip and small-minded hatred of the people which was both disturbing and thought-provoking. And terribly sad. The surviving Blackwoods are each eccentric and have their own unique mannerisms and behaviors which also made them vividly realistic and interesting to get to know. While all the Blackwoods are unfortunate in different ways, I had the most sympathy with Constance, who was such a good character and yet afflicted by her past and her apprehensive nature. I really wanted something good to happen for her.

There is a reveal in this book, that is not at all shocking because it is made pretty obvious from the start, but because of this, I found the story meandering and slow at parts - and again, much more of a study in characters and atmosphere than in plot development or suspense.. There is a pervading sense of stagnation though, in this book, that I think is part of the characters, and so perhaps it’s purposely made a part of the plot. This is short read though, with some very intense moments of dread woven into the story. I don’t think I actually enjoyed dwelling in this world Shirley Jackson created because it can be so unnerving and sad, but this was quite a vivid book.

*Note - this review was previously posted as a guest post on Papercuttts Book Blog.  Since I'm a little low on reviews at the moment, I'm posting this on my blog today!

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