We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Oooh, spooky! Just that cover alone, are you kidding?? I have been hearing about this book mostly just on the blogosphere for a while now (how come I never heard about it in real life, I wonder?) and was so excited to finally find time for it! Yum! My first lightbulb moment was in reading (on the cover, in the blurb, somewhere) that Shirley Jackson also wrote The Lottery, that hair-raising short story we read in school. Aha! Scary stuff, indeed.

This was a delightful little book, and I read its 146 pages in a day – not in a sitting, mind you, but over breakfast, lunch, dinner, and before bed. I didn’t want to let it rest any longer than I had to! I loved the way that Jackson meted out details; I just knew there was something waiting for me around the corner that was going to blow the whole story wide open, if I just turned one more page…

Our narrator, Mary Katherine or Merrikat, opens the book with her last trek into town for groceries and library books. It seems she used to make this trip twice a week; but after that last time, no more. In that prior time – the whole book is told in flashback – Merrikat lived in the big family house with her sister, Constance, and their Uncle Julian, an invalid. The townspeople hate them. It gradually becomes clear why, and only as the story continues to unfold do we learn why the past tense, and what’s different about the present.

Merrikat is a delightful narrator. She sees things her own way, which is the perk of living with two well-loved relatives and a cat (Jonas) and no one else. She has her own system of controlling her world, by burying charmed items, assigning special powers to special words (melody! gloucester!), and concentration. She tries to make Cousin Charles (an unwanted visitor) go away through her own brand of witchcraft, by removing and replacing items in the room he’s staying in. She is also a delightful narrator because her reliability must be questioned.

I don’t want to give any more plot details away. You must read this book! There is a whimsical tone, and a whole new set of rules. I really enjoyed learning how Merrikat viewed the world, what items had significance to her. There was definite suspense. Believe the hype, friends. Shirley Jackson will draw you into her world and tickle the back of your neck and you’ll love it!

2 Responses

  1. [...] We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson. Fiction. [...]

  2. [...] We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson. Fiction. [...]

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