Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

wehavealwayslivedinthecastleiiPublisher: Penguin Books
Release Date: 1962
Pages: 214 pages
Genre: Gothic, Horror, Mystery (Adult)
Source: hardcover from library
Rating: ★★★★★
“Merricat,” Said Constance, “would you like a cup of tea?”
“Oh, no,” said Merricat, “you’ll poison me.”
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a gothic novel considered by some to be one of the greatest horror novels in history. It definitely lives up to being a gothic novel with the setting, the constant talk of deaths that had occurred before the book, the “otherness” of the family, and there is an eerie feel to everything that happens. There’s also a constant wonder of what exactly occurred with this family which can be creepy in itself. However, it doesn’t necessarily fit into what most of us today consider to be horrific or disturbing, so it’s important to take into account its historical context. This was first published in 1962 and I read it in 2015. My personal experience with horror is completely different from a teenager or an adult reading it in the 60s. When I think of that, I can understand why people considered (and still consider) it to be part of the horror genre. It didn’t scare me at all, but the parts that were supposed to be creepy still had an impact on the story. If you’re looking for something to read this Halloween, or a creepy read that won’t keep you up at night (unless you want to stay up and read it), I can’t recommend this enough.
A few of my favorite things in the book were the relationship between Merricat and her sister Constance, the family’s history and learning more and more about them throughout the book, Uncle Julian’s obsession with the family’s history, the villagers (more of a love to hate situation there), and Merricat as the narrator. That’s almost all of the book really. Most of all, Shirley Jackson was a fantastic writer. Her words are beautifully put together to create a world that’s haunting and has stuck with me the last few days. I’m dealing with a bit of a “book hangover” now because I don’t know what to read next!I honestly had high expectations going into reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It has some amazing ratings and reviews out there already, and I’ve seen it on so many book lists recommending books by women, so it was difficult to start reading this without all of that in mind. But I still absolutely adored this book. It had me hooked within the first couple of pages, and I knew it was a new favorite by the halfway point. I usually have a good idea of a rating as I read, but rarely am I sure that I’m still going to love a book when I reach the end.

After reading this, I need to read the rest of Shirley Jackson’s works and now I’m more interested in other 60s gothic and horror novels. That’s an era that I haven’t read much from, so I’m curious to see what else was released around this time.

According to Goodreads, a couple of similar titles are In a Glass Darkly by Joseph Sheridan La Fanu and Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns. For more information at Goodreads.


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