Sunday, 11 September 2016

Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Image result for we have always lived in the castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a mystery/ semi-horror novel, written in 1962 by Shirley Jackson. It would be her final masterpiece.
This book follows an 18 year old girl, Mary Katherine otherwise known as 'Merricat' she introduces herself as having two fingers the same length as each other on each hand, disliking washing herself, dogs and noise.
She lives with her sister Constance and their Uncle Julian- who has started to lose his marbles a little bit.
They live in a rather large house that was once home many people, though you're not entirely sure how many. They are shunned by the people in the nearby village, for six years ago the rest of their family was poisoned and murdered at dinner. Constance was charged but acquitted of the murder.
The book is told through Merricat's viewpoint and you get a great sense of child-like thinking through her narration. Having only been 12 when her family were killed and gone to an orphanage till her sister was acquitted you get the sense that since that terrible night she's almost been stunted in her mental and emotional growth.
I found this book so intriguing. Throughout it Uncle Julian talks about what happened that night and fills in many of the blanks of what did happened, though never quite enough and it keeps you wanting more. It's very wonderfully written- the details without being too complex in the characters and scenes were very visual for me. I was able to really imagine their surroundings and assign each character their own voices- which is not something I often do. Every line in this book is a key to the character you are reading about. It is quite a tragic book though I personally didn't feel sorry for the characters- well, perhaps her sister a little bit because she seemed to have really taken on the role of mother and carer, without any fuss. But Merricat speaks very plainly and the only emotion you really see from her is her disdain for the people in her village and a visitor that comes to stay with them.
It's quite haunting, bizarre, and I really struggled putting this book down. I really want to read more of Shirley Jackson's books now.
I think this a good book to read for Halloween- it's got that gothic theme about it. Almost a black humour without actually being funny but, for me, the way Merricat tells her story it's not told in a fashion of 'our life has been hell since that devilish night' it's very much 'that happened but this is how we live now and we're getting on with life'
There's also an air of... magic. Whilst I was reading this book I felt myself relating it to The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman in some small way... there isn't really any magic in this story except for when Merricat shows her superstitions in nailing things to a tree to vanquish people, or burying objects for good luck.
I gave this book 5 stars because... damn it, it made me feel things. I'm not entirely sure what those things even were but it's been a week later and I'm still thinking about this book


  1. This book has been on my to-read list for a long while now! It sounds like it's so good.

  2. I really, really want to read this book, it sounds so good! Great review, really enjoyed reading this Laura!! I still need to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, too! xx