Saturday, September 25, 2010

121 - We Have Always Lived in a Castle; Shirley Jackson


I think I am just about the only person out there who had not read Shirley Jackson's, We Have Always Lived in a Castle. Well, now I have, and this 146 page book left me feeling a bit unsettled.  Creepy, atmospheric and beyond clever, this is one book that will leave some of you scratching your head when you get to the end.
In brief, Merrikat, as she prefers to be called, begins narrating this story in this way:
"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 fingers on both my hands are the same length, and 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 phallaides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead."
From the opening paragraph, I thought something is very strange about Merricat. She is eighteen and acts like a child. She is extremely superstitious, believing in signs and burying items in the ground to secure the property. She is also very protective of her sister.  She lives with her sister and Uncle Julius, who on the surface appears to have some sort of dementia. The three of them live in a secluded mansion, and never leave the house, except for Merricat who ventures into town for necessities about twice a week. It is clear that the townspeople fear and dislike the remaining family members. The Blackwoods avoid the neighbors, preferring the security of seclusion. They even avoid the few who are friendly.

Cousin Charles arrives on  the scene, interested in money that may have been left behind, and although he is an unlikable character, he is the only one who seems to be somewhat normal. How the other family members died is revealed as you read on.

So where is this story going? Well, before long it is very clear that Merricat is emotionally disturbed and not a reliable narrator, and that everything is not as it may have appeared early on. For a 142 page book, this one took me several days to complete as it was creepy, really kept my brain engaged searching for clues, and in the end left me wondering about Shirley Jackson, and what her life was like. I know that I will be interested in reading more by this fascinating author. Don't Miss This One!
RATING - 5/5 
(personal copy)

19 comments:

  1. I love this book and am planning a re-read shortly. I bought myself a lovely Penguin edition with a great cover. Jackson's short stories are also excellent and I adore The Haunting of Hill House. Great review!

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  2. OK, I'm the second person never to have read We Have Always Lived in a Castle. I have this on my TBR list though. Good review! I have hesitated to read beyond her short story "The Lottery", because I was so disappointed after that being hyped as THE MOST scariest story ever. Although I also have her book The Haunting of Hill House in my TBR pile. Maybe that's what Shirley Jackson is all about- making you feel creeped out.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Don't worry, I haven't read this one yet either! I definitely need to though!

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  4. lol, rest assure, your not the only one who hasn't read We Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson LOL. I feel like I'm from a different universe because i have never even heard of the author but the book does sound very interesting. And the creepiness is just what am looking for : ) Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Well, I have not read this book either. It sounds like I should though!! Thanks.

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  6. You beat me to it, Diane! I haven't read this book yet. I might read it for the RIP Challenge, not sure yet. It sounds a little odd & creepy, perfect for this time of year or even closer to Halloween!

    I skimmed your review only because I don't like to know too much about a book before I start reading it. But I'll be back once I've read Shirley Jackson's book!

    ~ Amy

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  7. I definitely want to try this one and I'm hoping I like it better than Haunting of Hill House.

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  8. Okay, now I'm fascinated! Creepy (especially when it's the mentally ill kind) is my thing. What other kind of person would spend more than three decades working with mentally ill, substance-abusing, and child-abusing clients? That would be me, of course!

    Sounds like a book for my list.

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  9. Well you aren't the last person to read it. This has been on my wish list for over a year. Maybe I'll get around to it this Halloween as I'm waiting for the few trick or treaters we have come by.

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  10. I want to read this one. I loved The Lottery and Haunting of Hill House!

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  11. Oh I loved this. So creepy, and unlike most everything else I've read. Jackson really has her own style. Subtle but very unsettling.

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  12. Wow, an unreliable narrator, creepy... Oh I just want to really read this one!

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  13. I really want to read this! My library didn't have it, but I requested it from another library. Hopefully it will be in soon!

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  14. You're certainly not the last person. I haven't read it so at least you already did. LOL. I've read a lot of reviews of the book, though. Hope to rectify this soon!

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  15. I love this one and have a copy with this exact cover (don't you love it) on my shelves at home just waiting for me to reread it. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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  16. You're not last .. I'm planning to read it for the RIP challenge in a few weeks!

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  17. I read this last year and like most of Jackson's work, it left me feeling creeped out!

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  18. I've not read it, and what's worse is that I thought I did. I didn't realize it until about 6 months ago that I had not read it. It's age talking or the plethora of meds I am on. Probably a bit of both.

    I would love to read this before Halloween since it's so creepy and weird (so I've heard).

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  19. You're not the only one who hasn't read it. Sounds perfect for the RIP Challenge.

    It goes stright to my wishlist.

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