Calzephyr (calzephyr77) wrote in books,

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

x-posted to bookish

I figure there are two people in this world--those that get Wuthering Heights and those that don't. I say this because if you love Wuthering Heights, you'll probably love We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Most people are familiar with Jackson's popular short story, "The Lottery". Individuals persecuted by a group of small minded individuals seem to be her forte, which is one of the themes of this 1962 book.

I bought this book on a $3 sale table at Chapters last year and read it during my Internet vacation. It was waaaay too long since I had read a book. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a contemporary gothic tale of mystery and suspense. Although the themes of anxiety, fear and agoraphobia were evident and I understood them well, I just found the events too repetitive and not very suspenseful. Maybe the Internet has shrunk my imagination ;-D

The main characters are the Blackwoods--teenage sister Mary Katherine, older sister Constance and Uncle Julian. Constance cooks and cares for her uncle and sister, so much so that food become another major theme. Uncle Julian constantly frets about his memory. Mary Katherine, or Merricat, is the narrator and practices little rituals to ward off evil. The family lives in a grand old house by themselves and only Mary Katherine ventures out to run errands in the nearby village. The villagers hold the family in contempt (or perceived contempt) due to a past family tragedy. This tragedy is hinted at in bits and pieces. For me, it was never satisfactorily revealed. The turning point in the story is when cousin Charles visits and his appearance threatens the status quo. Apparently the story is set in Vermont, but the overly dramatic language could easily make it a UK setting.

Anxiety, even though many people experience it, varies from person to person. My anxiety is not your anxiety. I feel that We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deeply personal work--just one that I'm not able to access. The book was made into a 2019 movie, so perhaps if I watch it, that will make the story more accessible to me. The trailer gives minor spoilers, so don't watch's probably assumed that most people know what a 50+ year old book is about.


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