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BOOK REVIEW: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister Constance and her uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted for murdering the rest of the family, the world isn't leaving the Blackwoods alone. And when cousin Charles arrives, armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe. Merricat must do everything on her power to protect the remaining family.
In her final, greatest novel, Shirley Jackson draws us into a dark, unsettling world of family rivalries, suspense and exquisite black comedy.

Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 146

I have wanted to read this book for such a long time, it is like nothing else I have read and one that I will always remember. 
Merricat lives at the Blackwood family home with her older sister Constance and their uncle Julian. Constance has been acquitted of murdering the rest of the family with arsenic in the sugar bowl. Even so, the family live in isolation; the local villagers believe Constance to be guilty  and want nothing to do with any of them. Merricat is shown journeying into the village early on in the book and it really highlights the fear surrounding them. People do not want to even touch Merricat, it is as though she is cursed. Merricat now hates the villagers and has visions of walking on their dead bodies; one prejudice leading to another. 
As the story develops we learn a little more about the deaths of  the other family members. There are a few shocks along the way but this is a book about characters rather than an intricate plot. Shirley Jackson introduces us to Merricat and then goes to some lengths to show the reader her current situation and how she arrived at it and then she throws cousin Charles into the book, almost as a device to show how Merricat behaves when faced with new circumstances. 
The book is considerably eerie and sinister yet their is no inclusion of the supernatural at all. It is Merricat's behaviour that is unsettling, she is bordering on being a sociopath; she has created her own world and she will not allow it to be threatened. Constance suffers from agoraphobia (as the author did too) so you question whether she is trapped with her sister or would she choose to leave if she could?
This is the first novel I have read by Shirley Jackson  but I know I will go on to read her other books. Her writing is masterful; the way she chooses language is wonderful. The book is only 146 pages long but it is so rich in detail, there are no wasted words. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is unsettling and uncomfortable but I didn't want it to end. 

1 comment:

jessicabookworm said...

We Have Always Lived in the Castle was also the first of Shirley Jackson's novels I read. I thought it was deliciously creepy! Since I have also read The Haunting of Hall House which is a slightly more traditional ghost story...with some twists.

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