Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.
***We Have Always Lived in the Castle
by Shirley Jackson
Reviewed October 20, 2003.
Penguin Books, New York, 1984. Originally published in 1962.
I ordered this book after I read and completely loved Shirley Jackson’s
hilarious books Life Among
and Raising Demons
about life with her houseful
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
is more along the lines
of Shirley Jackson’s eerie and disturbing short story, “The Lottery,” which
we read in high school English class and is definitely a masterpiece.
This book, too, is masterfully written. The narrator is Merricat
Blackwood. She and her sister Constance live in their family home
that the Blackwoods have owned for generations. All the rest of their
family is dead. The library books on their kitchen shelf are five months
Merricat goes on to tell about the day that she checked out those library
books. She had to walk into the village, where all the villagers hate
the Blackwoods. Still, Merricat was content to make her weekly shopping
trip into town. Then their cousin Charles turns up, and everything
The way Shirley Jackson gradually reveals how the family died and why
is skillfully done and keeps the reader eagerly turning pages. Seeing
the world through Merricat’s eyes, we understand that things are not quite
how she sees them, but we begin to understand her way of thinking all the
way to the sinister and haunting conclusion.
An anonymous reader gives this book five stars and comments:
This is my favorite book. I love every aspect of it. The characters
are so real to me. I think it is their distance from common everday "reality"
that makes them even more realistic. If i was able to look deep down inside
and write with my purest, truest voice - it would be the voice of Shirly
Jackson. I can hardly believe that I wasnt the one who wrote this book. I
am Mericat Blackwood. We are one in the same. We see the world through the
same eyes. Untill reading this book, I always held a quiet sort of pride
in the fact that i was the only one... I used to do some of the same things
that Merricat did - like burying things and having secret places and telling
myself that if someone said aloud certain words than soemthing else would
happen- basically placing all of my faith in superstitions that i invented.
Ofcourse, I would never. . .[do one thing Mericat did], but deep down in
the very depths of my humanity.. there is a little something that is excited
by the thought of it. I admire Shirly Jackson for being able to be so honest.
Thats what this book is to me - the first truly honest piece of literature
i have ever encountered.