We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson


*I featured this book in my blog post, 10 Short Books to Read in a Day. Check it out and let me know which short book from the list I should read next!*

There is no denying that Shirley Jackson is one heck of a story writer. We Have Always Lived in the Castle didn't captivate me from page one, but after I adjusted to her writing style, I was hooked. I HAD to know how the story would end.

Merricat Blackwood, one of three Blackwood family members not killed by a fatal dose of arsenic in the sugar bowl at dinner one night, lives on the family estate with her big sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. The villagers hate them and Constance never leaves the house, so they spend their days happily alone. That is, until cousin Charles arrives. Merricat senses the danger in Charles' sudden appearance, and she knows she must act swiftly to protect her family from his plans. 

The thing about this book that truly captivated me were the characters. They are all unreliable in their own way. You never know who exactly you can trust and what their intentions are. This created an immense amount of tension in even the most mundane of scenes. For me, Merricat and Constance, especially, drove this story forward. Their relationship with one another and their individual characters were both endearing and problematic at times. Jackson writes characters who can't be simply labelled as "likable" or "unlikable," but instead exist in this dichotomous space where they simply just are. It's refreshing and, as I'm sure she intended, frustrating at times. Especially when you just want to know what is going on!!

I'm hesitant to say what I had trouble with in this book because I fear it may turn people away from picking it up, which I absolutely do not want! I think We Have Always Lived in the Castle is well worth reading and I highly recommend it. However, I did feel that the ending was slightly anticlimactic. Like the rest of the story, the ending was ambiguous and open to interpretation, which was nice, but in such a slim book I wanted to be left with a real punch at the end. Also, the big reveal was kind of a let down because I saw it coming from very early on in the book.

Now, none of this is to say the ending was a total loss. It wasn't! There is a very clear climax and you are left with an ominous feeling after the final page. I just feel there could have been a little more. I don't know. Maybe I'm being thick and this ending was poetic and perfect and I'm just not getting it. If you've read the book and you think this is the case, please drop me a comment/email/carrier pigeon and let me know your thoughts!! 

Overall, I truly enjoyed We Have Always Lived in the Castle and would recommend it to anyone who loves some gothic vibes. Also, if you've read this book already and loved it, may I recommend Kelly Link! Her short stories are amazing and you'd love them. Trust me. Check out her short story, "The Summer People," from her collection Get In Trouble. It's a masterpiece.

What is your favorite gothic story/novel/poem? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Reading,