We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Shirley Jackson

American Literature

The story begins with Mary Katherine Blackwood, nicknamed Merricat who lives with her sister Constance and their Uncle Julian in a huge house, with a massive expanse of land, in the periphery of the village. Merricat and her family have lived in the village for a very long time and the villagers sort of don’t like—abhor them even. This evokes the question of WHY. Why do the villagers hate the Blackwoods?

The narrator is probably one of the most compelling and gripping characters I’ve read. She’s a fascinating character, in the sense that, she’s 18 years old but thinks like a 12-year old girl and has quite a liking to whimsical fantasies about the moon and flying horses. Not only that, her thoughts are morbid and disturbing when she talks about her hatred for the villagers and how she wishes they would all have some kind of a wood rot, and they would rot from the inside out and die and she’d step on their dead bodies while carrying her groceries. I love Merricat, and I wouldn’t want to classify her as an unreliable narrator, yet.

The themes in this book were very gothic and dark but not as overblown as other gothic books I’ve read. It deals with isolation and how some people prefer it that way, persecution and mob-like attitude of the villagers.

It’s difficult to actually say that it’s a flaw but the setting didn’t really evoke the sense of eeriness, or that haunting feeling as I thought it would be. The juxtaposition of the gothic elements and the child-like nature of the narrator didn’t really sit well with me. Nevertheless, this book has one of the best opening paragraphs that immediately drew me in. The writing is well executed, and a good book to start when getting into classics.

Overall, great plot and story, compelling characters and a great short read. I definitely recommend this to readers who love solid characters and are looking for a Halloween-y read.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

 

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