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We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

>> Monday, March 29, 2010

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 1962
Pages: 214
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #15
Source: Library

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 Book:
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.

My Thoughts:
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.

Rating 4/5


Aarti 3/29/2010 11:48 AM  

I've heard a lot about this book, and have it on my list. I saw it in the bookstore the other day, so if it's still there when April hits, I might grab it. I also want to read The Lottery now...

Framed 3/29/2010 5:35 PM  

Sounds interesting and slightly twisted. Besides I really like the cover. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

raidergirl3 3/29/2010 6:03 PM  

I love the Lottery, and I've been meaning to read one of her books. It sounds lovely and creepy, and I like knowing it is short!
I'll have to check out my school library.

Bookfool 3/29/2010 8:35 PM  

I think you're right that it takes a few days to soak in. I can't say I'd call this book a favorite, but it was certainly creepy and unique -- probably would have been a fun one to read in a group setting because I felt like there were things I wanted to discuss, although I sure don't remember what they were. LOL It's been a while. :)

Kailana 3/30/2010 2:55 PM  

I want to read this. I am disappointed my library doesn't have it, but I will hopefully get a copy in time for the RIP challenge.

Lenore 4/01/2010 2:20 PM  

I first saw The Lottery performed on stage, and it haunts me to this day. I'd definitely be interested in reading more of Jackon's work.

SmallWorld at Home 4/03/2010 8:14 AM  

I read this when I was in my early 20s or late teens and loved it. There was a great movie of this I watched back in the 80s.

Nymeth 4/03/2010 11:19 AM  

That's an excellent point about Merricat sounding the age she'd have been when it all happened! I hadn't thought of that, but it makes perfect sense. Anyway, I loved this book and I'm glad to hear you liked it to :)

SuziQoregon 4/03/2010 8:07 PM  

Aarti: Oh if you haven't read The Lottery, you should. This one would be perfect for the RIP challenge.

Framed: interesing and slightly twisted is right. Not everything is answered which I think adds to the unsettling feeling I was left with.

Raidergirl: it is very short and a quick read. Give it time to settle a bit before you make up your mind what you think.

Bookfool: I agree - I won't call it a favorite, but I'm glad I read it and it's one I'll remember. It would be fun to read with a group and discuss.

Kailana: Oh I'm so sorry your library doesn't have it. Both of the county library systems I use have multiple editions and copies.

Lenore: Oh I think seeing The Lottery on stage would be very very unsettling.

SmallWorld: a movie? I'll have to see if my library has that.

Nymeth: it's funny I didn't make that connection until I was writing my review, but it would make sense since it coincides with her near isolation from the rest of the community.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment. I read and respond them here although not always right away. If you would prefer an email response let me know.

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