Tuesday 6 September 2016

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the CastleLiving in the Blackwood family home with only her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the world isn't leaving the Blackwoods alone. And when Cousin Charles arrives, armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe, Merricat must do everything in her power to protect the remaining family.

Told from Mary Katherine, or Merricat's, point of view, we see the after effects of living in a town that no longer likes your family, is scared of them and blames one young woman in particular for the deaths of the rest of the Blackwoods. Merricat had a very odd voice, almost like a child she states strange and random thoughts as fact, like running away to the moon. Although she tells us she is 18, I honestly spent most of the story forgetting and expecting her to be about 5!

Older sister Constance looks after the house and the family now, telling Merricat to do her chores and making sure Uncle Julian gets his medicine. It had an old-school Gothic feel to it, with its big empty house, hushed secrets and dead family. But it never felt like a horror story. It was much more subtle in its scariness, mostly in the way that Merricat saw the world and her twisted yet fierce protectiveness of her family home.

The arrival of cousin Charles upsets Merricat's balance and that's when things go pear-shaped and the Gothic horror really comes out. We never knew who to trust or who to listen to, especially with Merricat's juvenile fears guiding our view of their situation. All in all, a weird and wonderful story, from whom I now understand to be one of the greatest Gothic writers.

Published 1st October 2009 by Penguin Modern Classics. First published 1962.

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