Friday, September 17, 2010

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

I read it yesterday afternoon which wasn't difficult as at 158 pages it's more a novella than a novel and it's not going to let me go until I talk about it......just a little. More would be nice but not possible because it would spoil the story if you haven't read it,  so this is less a review and more a hope that I can tempt you to read this marvellous tale.....this

"Witches brew of eerie power"

Synopsis: Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the world isn't leaving the Blackwoods a lone. And when Cousin Charles arrives, armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe, Merricat must do everything in her power to protect her remaining family.

Merricat is the narrator and in the opening paragraph she is introducing herself.

" My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle two fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides , the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead."
A brilliant beginning that immediately gives you a sense of something strange and not quite right. Shirley Jackson creates a quietly disturbing atmosphere that reminds me, as does the title, of the darkness that lies at the heart of many fairytales. The creepiness is heightened by the fact that much of the story is relating the everyday activities of the Blackwoods, shopping, cooking, cleaning and gardening, as they struggle to maintain a sense of security by keeping to a rigid routine. While Merricat isn't a narrator to trust she is the most fascinating character and this book is definitely going to be one to reread. Masterly storytelling - I loved it!


  1. I really want to read this at some point. The reviews I see have made it sound really good!

  2. I LOVE this book. The writing is just brilliant. Glad you liked it. You're right, it is the totally normal things in their lives that add to the sense of overall weirdness...

  3. Kailana & is really good. I recommend.

    tuulenhaiven......I agree, the writing is brilliant.

  4. I much prefered this to House on Haunted Hill. I would love to know if all the food in the book is meant to represent something though as it was a huge theme. Not just in the preparing of it but even the library books are food ones, the parcels left for them is food, the growing of it and of course the main event happened at dinner.

  5. That sounds great. And I just love that title too :)

  6. It's a brilliant story. So creepy and strange.

  7. I really want to read We Have Always Lived in the castle, it sounds creepy, great stuff.