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

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

I was really not sure what to expect with We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I read this book because it’s Libby’s favorite book in Holding Up the Universe, and I was curious about it after hearing it mentioned so often in that book. It’s a gothic “horror” novel, and it was one of those books where I wasn’t quite sure what was going on half of the time. I wasn’t sure what was real and what was not. I’m still not sure.

Merricat (Mary Catherine Blackwood) lives with her older sister, Constance, and her ailing uncle, Julian. They were the only survivors of a mass poisioning of the rest of the family during dinner many years ago. Uncle Julian has never recovered fully, and he’s now wheelchair bound, and Constance takes care of him. Constance stood trial for the murders, and the whole town is now afraid of the family.

The town’s treatment of Merricat and her family has an almost Lord of the Flies, mob-mentality type cruelty. It’s pretty horrible. Merricate herself seems stunted. She was 12 years old when the murders took place, and even though it’s been 6 years, she is treated as if she’s still only 12. Constance does her best to keep the family going. They use the money in their safe to buy food, and she’s grows as much as she can in her garden. They still dine once a week with an old friend of the family.

This book is very character-driven with minimal plot. I was intrigued mostly because I was so determined to figure out what was going on. The audiobook was read well, and it held my interest although I was left wanting to discuss it with someone when I finished just so I could learn whether I had the right interpretation of the story.

I can see why Libby (in Holding Up the Universe) identified with the lonely and reclusive Merricat, but I’m happy that she came out of her shell, met Jack, and decided to live in the real world again.

Rating: 3 Stars

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Shirley Jackson
Blackstone Audiobooks
June 1, 2010
Audio CD

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 curiosity 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.

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