We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

I had a lot of expectations going into this book and honestly it really didn’t fulfill all those expectations. I was expecting a ghost story that made me shiver while reading in a dark room in the middle of the night and all I really got was a psychological study. Everything I read said it was a ghost story and even my cousin who is a librarian called it a ghost story but honestly it is more of a mystery because I am pretty sure no one is dead, because if someone is dead then everyone is crazy.

 

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The story is told from the perspective of Merricat Blackwood who is an unreliable narrator considering the story is about her and she can shape it however she wants. This is what adds to the mystery because Merricat talks in an almost child like voice that is never quite telling the whole story.

Merricat lives in her family home with her older sister Constance and her elderly uncle Julian, who was left crippled from the poisoning. Merricat has a cat for a friend, Julien, and spends most of her days wandering around the woods that surround their home. She goes into town on Tuesdays for groceries and library books but sadly that all changes when cousin Charles comes to live with them. Charles Blackwood is a cousin to Constance and Merricat and while he says he is only there to help in Merricat’s eyes he is there to bring change.

Merricat’s defining characteristic is the fact that she doesn’t like change and will do anything to ensure that life will always stay the same between her and Constance. I can’t for the life of me think why Constance stays with Merricat, but after one losing one’s whole family maybe you cling to the family you have left?

I like the child like voice of Merricat because even though she is eighteen it is like she never quite got past that year that she was sent to live in the orphanage after her family died. In some ways acting like a child is a defense mechanism and one of the reasons I believe that Constance forgives Merricat so easily is because she is all Constance has left. I also think Constance feels responsible for what happened to the family because in a way she herself was responsible for Merricat. However, it is hard to curb a siblings psychopathic tendencies so Constance shouldn’t feel all that responsible.

I must say I was hoping for a more dramatic ending but it was a suitable ending considering the whole story. I really thought Merricat was going to do something a little more drastic but in the end she got what she wanted and both her and Constance were happy.

-A

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