We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a book that I have read over and over again. This was the final novel of Shirley Jackson and in my opinion, it’s her best. It’s like she collected everything that she had learned over her time of writing and put it all into this book.
Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.
The one thing that I always find surprising about this book is how old Merricat is – she’s eighteen-years-old, but in the book, she comes across as about thirteen.
All of the characters in this book are beautifully written; I love the character of Uncle Julian and how he’s always piecing together that fateful night, I love how he’s always working on his book and I love how much he adores his nieces – Merricat and Constance.
Merricat is the narrator of this book and we see how she perceives the world outside her estate. We see how she is mocked by the townspeople and she just wishes that they would leave her alone. We see that she cares for her sister so much and she would do anything to protect her and we also see that she may also have OCD. Merricat likes things a certain way, she has to do things on certain days and if those things don’t happen or her plans end up falling apart, she believes bad things are going to happen to her and what’s left of her family.
“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my 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 Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead.”
– Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Now… Cousin Charles… Oh, I hate him so much! Every time he spoke, I would be angry. It was quite clear from the moment he turned up to the house what his intentions were and he would treat Uncle Julian and Merricat is such a horrible way. I love how – even though Uncle Julian isn’t really a reliable character, he could see through Charles’ facade and knew that he was up to no good.
This is such a wonderful book that will send shivers down your spine – without it even including any supernatural elements! It’s brilliantly written with amazing characters and a perfect plot. If you are going to read any of Shirley Jackson’s work, please make it this one!