Book Review – We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson


I’ve read Shirley Jackson before. I remember reading The Haunting of Hill House and enjoying it and am disappointed in myself for not reviewing it at the time. Anyway, I knew I would like her book. The book cover had me really intrigued. I know you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover but c’mon. Don’t we all?

From the first line I was really wrapped up in this book. It definitely had a ‘vibe’ to it. It reminded me of the beginning of the movie Rebecca when the new Mrs. De Winter is narrating as the camera rolls up the driveway to see Manderly. The first line really set me up for the tone of the book. It is only “My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood.” – I’m not sure why such a simple sentence already put me in the right frame of mind. Maybe it was her actual name. The rest of the opening paragraph really pulled me in.

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, but 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 Plantagenent, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

Well, I’m already intrigued! What sort of girl is Mary Katherine [Merricat as she is often called]. What happened to her family? We get teh story in pieces and those pieces come from what we suspect are all unreliable narrators – Mary Katherine, her sister Constance and their Uncle Julian – the only surviving members of the Blackwoods. We see through Merricat’s eyes what the town is like and how the townspeople have ‘turned’ on the Blackwoods – ostracizing them. Were they all crazy? The town and the Blackwoods?

Was any of one them sane? What was going on with the people in the village? What kind of mob mentality was this?

This was a real intellectual thriller, in my opinion. No supernatural tricks here – just people being people and what they can and will do to each other. A fascinating read.

I admit, I skipped over the intro of the book. I started reading it and realized it was giving pieces of the book away so I moved on. I’ll likely go back and read it now that I’ve finished the book.