Title: We Have Always Lived in a Castle
Author: Shirley Jackson
On the Shelves: Fiction> Classic> Suspense
Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the hostility of the villagers. (Goodreads 2015)
I first read “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson back when I did A level English, as an example of dystopian works (we were studying and comparing Orwell’s 1984 to Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale). I was disturbed yet weirdly fascinated by Jackson’s tale. The way she used a slow build up to suddenly slap you in the face with what was actually going on. It made me want to read more of her work. So nearly ten years later, I finally got my hands on a copy of, probably her most loved novel, We Have Always Lived in a Castle.
This novel focuses around two sisters, Merricat and Constance, who are living in their family home, years after a family tragedy has occurred, estranging them from their local village, making them the subject of the local rumour mill for years and years to come. But not everything is as it seems and as a long lost relative appears with more than “good interests” at heart, the truth of what happened that night slowly comes to light. That is about as much as I can say without giving the plot away. Jackson, again, managed to use her story telling methods to portray one side of a story for most of the book and then delivers the big reveal with a resounding thud. I had a literal “OH SNAP!” moment when I got there!
I found this book a little weird, and sometimes the story felt like it was moving at a very slow pace, which is strange when the novel itself is only around 160 pages long. But I did enjoy it and I will definitely be looking into more of Jackson’s work in the future.
I highly recommend this to those who enjoy mysteries, Gothic literature and suspense stories.