October 29, 2009

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

Pin It

Shirley Jackson  knew how to creep people out. Just read The Lottery and see what I mean. She knew how to make readers uncomfortable and squirmy. We Have Always Lived in the Castle does that beautifully.

Mary Katherine, Merricat, is 18 years old and lives in an old house with her sister Constance and Uncle Julian. The rest of her family are dead. How is revealed throughout the story.

Most of her time is spent in the house except for the couple days a week she goes into the village to buy groceries. The trips are nerve wracking. The people seem to hate her. There is no love lost between them. Merricat wishes them all dead.

It's been this way for years but Merricat feels that things are about to change. One day there is a knock on the door and Merricat's fears come true.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a weird tale but in a good way. It's clear from the beginning that 'that girl ain't right'. Merricat is 18 but acts more like a 12 year old. She also has some strange habits and murderous thoughts. I wondered how reliable she was as the narrator. How much of what's happening is real? Could the villagers really be that bonkers?

I read that Shirley Jackson was agoraphobic. I can believe it if she put her fears into this book. When Merricat is away from the house, there is a sense of urgency to get back to it. The reader breathes a sigh of relief that she made it back safely. Constance and Uncle Julian never leave and even the few visitors they get are received with a lot of fuss and bother. Merricat has difficulties letting other people into the house, which is how all the trouble starts when Charles arrives.


funny pictures of cats with captions

Not that Charles is innocent. The moment he steps in I could see dollar signs in his eyes. Poor Constance is so lonely, she'd befriend the devil if he knocked. When relatively normal (you know except for the greed part) Charles stays in the house, we get to really feel the oddness of their situation. Uncle Julian rambles a lot like Walter from Fringe, at least he did to me. He's never been the same since 'that day' and Merricat's strangeness becomes more pronounced. Constance manages it all with a smile and a "silly Merricat" but she isn't unaffected by the charms of normality.

Even though the surprise near the end wasn't all that surprising, I definitely enjoyed the story.

17 comments :

  1. I'm not sure I can handle a freaky book, but this is a very good, thorough review. I'm really glad you enjoyed it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Shirley Jackson is masterful! I really liked the mood in this great book.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I get scared easily, so I'm a little unsure if it's a good match for me, but maybe I should try to give Jackson a try.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have to add this one to my list as I am right in the middle of The Haunting of Hill House; Jackson and enjoying it a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh my! Sounds perfect for this time of year.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I loved this book! I have to pick up The Haunting of Hill House. She's a magnificent writer.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I must have read this one pre-blog; I can't find a review. It is definitely creepy. The Lottery, on the other hand, just made me mad. But, the collection itself really blew my mind. Have you read her entire short story collection (titled after the short story, "The Lottery")? It's really amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Rebecca & Beth- It's not monsters and zombies scary, it's more messing with your mind freaky.

    Care- It had a gothic feel to it.

    Diane- I must reread Haunting. I forgot so much of it.

    Kathy- It's a great Halloween treat!

    Amy- I wish she had wrote more!

    Bookfool- The Lottery was a mind bender. I have read her short stories but must reread them because I can't seem to remember any.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wow, I've never heard of this book or even the author! Thanks for a great review- will be on my radar :-)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I had this on my RIP IV pool but never got around to reading it. I'll probably start with this one in a couple of days. Heard lots of great things about the book and Shirley Jackson, your review included.

    ReplyDelete
  11. YOu've had me adding a bunch of stuff to my reading list lately--DuMaurier and Jackson were perfect suggestions, I was in the mood for that kind of thing lately.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oo, I really liked this one! So short and creepy. The Haunting of Hill House is a good one too if you haven't read it already :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I didn't know that about Shirley Jackson. Makes sense though.

    ReplyDelete
  14. lol, love the LOLcat :D And good point about the agoraphobia.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Dang it! I mooched this last year SPECIFICALLY to read THIS year the week before Halloween. Oh well, next year I suppose.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Dang it! I mooched this last year SPECIFICALLY to read THIS year the week before Halloween. Oh well, next year I suppose.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I need to read more Shirley Jackson. Thanks for this review!

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting! Please leave a comment. I've disabled Anonymous comments since I've had a barrage of Anon spam lately. Sorry about that.
Also, if you leave a legit comment but it contains a spammy link, it will not be published.

nrelate