>> Monday, March 29, 2010
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Publication Date: 1962
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #15
The Short Version:
Haunting story of two sisters and their elderly uncle shunned by the people in town due to suspicions held over from their past.
Why I Read It:
I’d seen a couple of recent reviews that had me intrigued.
The story is told by 18 year old Mary Katherine Blackwood. The reader gets her perspective of how she, her older sister and aged uncle are treated by the people in town. The three of them are all definitely different. Mary Katherine (called Merricat) is the only one who ventures into town and lives in what is clearly some sort of combination of fantasy world and children’s’ board game. Her older sister Constance, never leaves the house for reasons not revealed until later. Frail Uncle Julian is dying but pores over his papers in order to attempt to tell the story of the dinner six years ago that resulted in the deaths of four family members.
When Cousin Charles arrives, the change that Merricat fears is put into motion with devastating results.
Mary Katherine is supposed to be eighteen, but she seems to be at least six or seven years younger than that as she tells this story. That would coincide with the dinner six years earlier that began the near complete isolation of the remaining three family members from life in the nearby town.
The story is one that I found myself liking better a few days after I finished it than I did as I read the last page. It’s a short book so a quick read, but it’s a story that takes a bit longer than that to fully digest.
Like Jackson’s famous short story, The Lottery, this story also has elements of what an angry and uninformed group of people can perpetrate on those they see as different or suspicious.
It’s not really a horror story or ghost story, but more of a dark little gothic tale that creeps into your head and sets up camp as you read it. It’s a title worth remembering for some Halloween time mood reading.