We Have Always Lived in The Castle by Shirley Jackson

(c) Trang for Bookidote

The number of times I’ve seen this book around is insane. I saw this book in a used bookstore for 2.95$ and I just had to buy it. Upon starting my opinions about this novel, one thing I have to admit : Shirley Jackson is one hell of an author. Her sentences are unique but also so simple and efficient. For example, her repetitions are not mundane, it’s there for a purpose and she knows how to play with it. The macabre children’s song is present throughout the novel to intensify the suspense of the plot.

Now, I have to confess that when I finished the book, I was a bit disappointed. In a sense, a lot of people refer to this book as one of the greatest books and I found it quite anticlimatic with a plot that I was expected a little bit more from. But the more I reflect on it while writing this review, I have quite developed a fondness for its dark corners. It’s definitely an atmospheric book. In other words, you would read it for the setting, for the imagery and the symbolism that the author wants to put forward.

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For what it’s worth, I love the unreliable narrator which is Merricat, she has such an unique way of seeing the world and her illusions make the whole story even weirder. Because of it, she suffers from being the black sheep of the family, always being punished and Jackson uses the imagery of her as a Witch, a symbol that’s very dominant in gothic literature to describe someone who’s rejected by the society.

(c) Trang for Bookidote

“A quiet anxiety that can’t seem to let go, Shirley Jackson’s final opus We Have Always Lived in a Castle is a slow-burn masterpiece on the banal horror of ordinary people with a surprising ending that eschews retribution for sweetness. Absolutely timeless. – William Le (read-along partner) “

One the rare books that the protagonist doesn’t have nor need character development. Indeed, conventional plot structure is about the protagonist reacting to a changing environment and changing along with it. Merricat takes a firm stance against her entourage and forces them instead to accept the Blackwood name in her own way. She comes out of the story, “innocent” still but for the better. Except for her, I didn’t really care for any other characters. And here I was thinking, maybe that was the whole point, maybe Shirley Jackson wanted us to sympathize with the protagonist and kind of ignore the rest because, who would want to be normal?

(c) Trang for Bookidote

Overall, if you’re looking for a novel that resonates with the confinement life, I would totally recommend this novel 😉

RATING: 4/5

Did you read this book? Did you read any other works from Shirley Jackson? What do you think about this book?

Review by TRANG TRAN

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