We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Title: We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Author: Shirley Jackson
Genre: Fiction

Rating: 5 / 5

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Quite a book, Ms. Jackson. I didn’t quite know what genre to put it in. It’s not quite horror–at least, not to me–and it’s not quite suspense or mystery. I suppose it could be called a romance of sorts; Merricat after all has a love affair with her world and its just-so order. What this novel really is is atmospheric. The feeling of creepy unbalance pervades everything. Readers are treated to the truth of the story in a sort of fun-house mirror way, through the Merricat’s twisted mind.

This story is expertly crafted. The story is thought-provoking and haunting, rich with meaning and heavy with symbols and themes. There is a lot to tease apart here and I plan to read a few essays on this book to see what others have found there. It is deceptively simple and crept up on me. One of the things I liked most about this book was that I could relate to just about everyone, from Merricat to Constance to some of the people in town; the sole exception might be Charles, who I hated nearly as much as Merricat did. It’s interesting not because I don’t usually relate in some way to characters in books–I definitely do–but because so many of these people are so obviously damaged or damaging, abused or abusive, or both. They’re all caricatures but they’re all believably human at the same time. When I finished the book, it seemed like maybe a four star book to me, but after letting it sit for a week and thinking about it, its ingenious nature has become very apparent. Superbly done!

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