Wednesday, 2 February 2011

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson

Republished by Penguin in 1990
Pages 269

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 to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantegenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

We Have Always Lived In The Castle is one of those books I have been meaning to read since I started blogging and I eventually got around to it at the end of  last year. I had completely forgotten to review it as it was on my husband's iPad and unless a book is left in front of me to trip over, I will completely forget it.
The novel is told in first person by Katherine, an unusual young girl who lives alone with her sister and her uncle. The rest of the family died of poisoning six years ago. Katherine's sister, Constance was found not guilty of killing them, but others still believed that she was responsible. The family are spurned by the rest of the town and Katherine is often taunted by the male villagers when she visits the town in order to shop for food.

You feel such empathy for the small household, each still suffering in their own way for the events of the past.
Katherine (fondly known as Merrycat by her sister) is a rather strange young girl. She treads a very thin line between fantasy and reality.  She clearly has a leaning towards OCD, as she believes that she must carry out different rituals constantly to keep her little world safe.  She is very protective over her sister and despises any interference from well wishers.

Uncle Julian is still disturbed by the deaths of the rest of the family.  He is unable to move on from what happened six years before.  He dwells hourly on the events of the day preceding their deaths and the finite details of their last meal together. It is almost a macabre obsession. 

Constance suffers with agoraphobia. Feeling shunned by the world and treated like a criminal, she hides away from the world, relying on her younger sister to be her eyes and ears to the world. 

I found this book to be unusual yet fascinating.  I was expecting to read a scary book, but I found it to be rather bizarre, but bizarre in a good way, as I really did enjoy it. I suppose the story could be considered scary in one sense if you consider how nasty and evil the villagers become and what lengths they will go to destroy other lives to ease their own minds.

The language was very descriptive, allowing you to easily transplant yourself in their world.  The plot was unusual and kept me wanting more.

On the whole a brilliantly bizarre look at the darker side of human nature.

24 comments:

  1. This was a title that I only camr across via blogging - can't believe you read it on an ipad though! Want to know more about ipad reading experiences...

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  2. Wonderful review, Viv! I'm not sure if this is a novel for me but I did enjoy reading your review. I actually recently saw this on a Norwegian book blog as well I wonder if it's a coincidence that it shows up again now :)

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  3. That's the feeling I get from this book, that it'll be bizarre. Have you seen the other covers for the book though? There's one black and white one of a girl in front of a castle that very nearly gave me nightmares. Still, I'd like to read this at some point! :)

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  4. I've also been meaning to read this book since blogging. Perhaps this year. LOL.

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  5. I liked this one when I read it last year. Nice review Viv.

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  6. Glad you liked it! This was such an odd book...

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  7. This has been on my wishlist for months! Bumping it up to the top now: sounds right up my alley. (Love the new cover, too.)

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  8. This is a book I'll always remember for the reading experience. I finished it on Halloween night 2009 during a storm/power outage. Creepy!

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  9. I loved this one. It was so unusual and fascinating. As you said, a unique look at the dark side...

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  10. If I wasn't convinced by the extract from the book, your great review certainly convinced me that this is a book I'd like to read.

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  11. It does sound like a strange book, but also an entertaining one. How did you like reading it on an iPad? My daughter recently read a book, Sarah'a Key, on her iPod Touch (tiny screen).

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  12. I'm the same way - I have to leave books to be reviewed some place in the way in order to remember to write about them. Brilliantly bizarre sounds good to me.

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  13. Verity - prefer Ipad reading to Kindle. About the right size page, back light and touch screen. I want a Kindle with those things.

    Ladybug - that is someone telling you to read it!!

    Clover - the other cover just freaks me out! Want to read The Haunting next.

    Christina - go for it.

    Diane - thankyou.

    Amanda - odd is a good word for it.

    Susie - hope you enjoy it.

    JoAnn - what a creepy time to read it.

    Anbolyn - It is definitely different from any other books I have read.

    Petty Witter - hope you enjoy it.

    Suko - loved reading it on the iPad! I want one now.

    Bermudaonion - just found two I have forgotten about. Gulp!

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  14. I have never head about this one, such a shame, cos it sure sounds weird. I am glad you reviewed it :)

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  15. I have always wanted to read this. Now I want to even more. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  16. I found this book completely claustrophobic, but in the best possible way. Shirley Jackson is brilliant.

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  17. This is one book that's been on my wish list for a long, long time. You've just reminded me about it. Thanks for the review!

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  18. Unusual and bizarre, huh? Not sure I've heard this one referred to that way but that alone has me more intrigued than anything else I've read! I've only read one of Shirley Jackson's short stories (The Lottery--also unusual and bizarre), but I enjoyed it. I've been wanting to read this but have been too cheap to buy an unused copy and can't find a used edition so far. One day! ;)

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  19. I totally agree with you..."brilliantly bizarre" :) Describes it perfectly. I really need to read some more Jackson!

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  20. This sounds so wonderful. I haven't read it but I was assuming it was a "regular" scary story. I see there's a lot more going on. I must put this one on my list!

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  21. Wow. Now I like bizarre reads so this actually sounds like one I'd love. I really like the idea of it and the characters, particularly Katherine. Thank you for the review, Viv. Will have to add this one to my list. :D You always review great sounding books.

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  22. This sounds interesting and different. I'd like to read it.

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  23. I absoluted loved this and I have The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery on my wish list.

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  24. Bizarre in a good way is the best kind of bizarre! I confuse this book often with White is for Witching- I'm not sure why. I have White is For Witching, but will keep my eye out for Shirley Jackson for sure!

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