ISBN-13: 9780141191454
Publisher: Penguin Group
Published: 2009
158 pgs

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live withmy sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenent, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead. (Pg 1)
After having read Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and loving her writing style (and I loved the atmospheric setting), I knew I have to read her other books, thus this is where We Have Always Lived in the Castle comes along.

As in The Haunting of Hill House, this story is written in first person from a female point of view. From the very first opening line (please see above in italics), I knew Mary (also affectionately called as Merricat by her elder sister, Constance) would be an extraordinary heroine, and a creepy one to boot. She lives in a secluded house of a small village, together with Constance and Uncle Julian, who sits in his wheelchair all the time. All of them are outcasts, and the people in the village hated (and fear of) them due to an arsenic incident that happened years ago.

Constance spends most of the time tending the garden and cooks for the family, while Merricat will plays with her cat, Jonas, and wanders around their garden. She is the only one who would leave the house twice in a week to do the grocery, otherwise she stays in the house all the time. All seems to be peaceful until the day their cousin, Charles, step into their house and walk into their life.

I wish I could say more about the plot but like what other bookbloggers who had read this book said: it is best read without knowing too much from the beginning, as the author had a knack for building the suspense and you just could not help but to be led by her superb storytelling. Yes, her stories are creepy, but yet I find myself reading away because you just have to read more about her characters and know what happened. Speaking of characters, I think Shirley Jackson wrote the most intriguing heroines and most often it makes me wonder if there are anything peculiar about them, though at times I find myself sympathize with them too, which is such a contradicting reaction. The best part about reading them is you will find yourself questioning their motives, and wonder what had drove them apart from the others.

After reading this book, I realize I did not really care for any of the characters (well, maybe except for Uncle Julian because he is the only character I feel who has no motives, plus he is old and sick) because I do not know how I should feel towards the two sisters, and as for the others they are just simply a bunch of heartless and unsympathetic people. I wish I am able to tell more about the true feelings between the two sisters because though they are very close, sometimes the way they talk or interact made me wonder if there are more besides the close-knit sisterhood.

I loved how the story is wrapped up towards the end, and I could understand why Shirley Jackson had named this story as 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle'. I would recommend this book to you if you have not read it, but first you have to read The Haunting of Hill House because that remains my favourite Jackson's book thus far. And oh, if you have the same edition as mine (the first cover of this post), don't forget to read an Afterword by Joyce Carol Oates after reading the last page; I always find it interesting to read from another author's perspective.

Have you read this book? What do you think of it?

Other reviews:
A Book Blog. Period.
A Striped Armchair
Bending Bookshelves
Bold. Blue. Adventure.
Book Addiction
Booknotes by Lisa
books i done read
Care's Online Bookclub
Fizzy Thoughts
Jenny's Books
Nothing of Importance
Regular Ruminations
Save Ophelia
So Many Books
Stuck in a Book
The Bookling
Things Mean A Lot
(Let me know if I missed yours.)
10 Responses
  1. I bought this one in November but have not read it. It does sound pretty great; thanks for the review.

  2. Thank you for your great review, Melody! I will have to look for this one.

  3. Melody Says:

    Diane & Wendy - I hope you'll read it soon! I'm interested to hear what you'll think of this book when you get to it! :)

  4. Stephanie Says:

    I just read this about a month ago...and I have to say, my review was much like yours. So many people loved this book. And while I appreciate the style of the book and Jackson's writing, I really disliked every character!! It's hard to like a book when you can't stand any of the characters!!

    Nice review!

  5. Melody Says:

    Stephanie - Thanks, Stephanie! Glad we share the same sentiments! ;)

  6. Debi Says:

    I adored, adored, adored this book! But I haven't read The Haunting of Hill House yet, so perhaps I have something even better to look forward to, eh?

  7. S. Krishna Says:

    I need to read more Shirley Jackson. I love atmospheric novels, but haven't really read any of her stuff!

  8. Anonymous Says:

    I haven't read this one or Hill House yet, but they are both on my list.

  9. Melody Says:

    Debi, Swapna & Stacy - Thank you all for your comments! I really enjoyed reading this book, and Shirley Jackson is my favourite author! I hope you'll read her books soon, they're all great!

  10. Anonymous Says:

    I liked The Haunting of Hill House better too. I liked the ambiguity of that book better. It made it creepier.

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