We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson

So, I read this for RIP two years ago and found it pretty fantastic, if easily spoil-able. And then a while back I found it on OverDrive as an audiobook and plopped it on my “for future reference list” and then I had disappointing times with the audio for The Turn of the Screw and I put off listening to it for fear of a repeat.

But I should have feared not! For this audio version is everything that The Turn of the Screw was not, with the narrator all suspenseful and whispery and actually way more creepy than I had previously thought Merricat to be. Excellence!

And so, yes. There’s a Merricat, and her family is about half dead, including one person who is basically half-dead himself, and her sister Constance doesn’t leave the house on account of the town doesn’t care if Constance was acquitted of murdering her family, they’re still jerk-pantses who like to sing songs about murder. And they sing them at Merricat when she goes into town, but she just imagines them all falling dead and she feels better.

That’s pretty much how the whole book goes. Also: the town is full of mean people, Merricat’s house is a refuge, a relative comes to call who starts to combine the two, hell breaks loose. Don’t let townies into your house, is the moral of this story. Also beware the power of people in large groups (this is from the woman who wrote The Lottery, after all), the power of very aggressive people, and the power of superstition. And arsenic. Arsenic is bad stuff, guys.

I would tell you more specific things, but part of the charm of the story is in how Jackson sets everything up to be revealed, although even knowing the “secrets” of the book I still found a lot to love in it. So you should just go ahead and read it twice in a row. It’s a short book. No problem.

Recommendation: For people who are or like to be creeped out by children and/or mobs. Also people who like poisonous mushrooms.

Rating: 9/10
(RIP Challenge)

4 thoughts on “We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson

  1. readinginwinter says:

    I definitely want to try this out – though, I wasn't thrilled with the scare factor of The House on Haunted Hill. Maybe this one would be better!

  2. Alison says:

    readinginwinter — Welllll, it's not really a scary book, and I wouldn't even say it's as scary as The Haunting of Hill House (I hope that's the book you mean!). It's definitely of that same brand of psychological creepiness, with most of the scary coming from you wondering how anyone's brain can work like that. But I think if you don't go into this expecting to be terrified, you'll like it a lot!

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