‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ by Shirley Jackson

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Living 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 Blackwood’s 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.
In her final, greatest novel, Shirley Jackson draws us into a dark, unsettling world of family rivalries, suspense and exquisite black comedy.

This was one of the most interesting books I’ve read in some time. I have to be honest and say I don’t think I’ve ever really read anything like it, it was simply brilliant.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ is about a girl called Mary Catherine Blackwood who is either a witch or just believes in magic. Either way she had a very unique voice and provided an interesting narrator to tell this dark story. The book is about a time of great change for the Blackwood family as Constance decides to start coming out of her shell again and considers once again stepping into the world. Her sister doesn’t think this is a good idea, not only because of the immense difference it would make to their strictly structured routine of their lives but also because twice a week she walks into town and experiences first hand the cruelty of the locals to her family.

The appearance of her cousin Charles is a catalyst that threatens to irrevocably change the Blackwoods lives. Charles is a selfish, vindictive man who’s father recently died, leaving him penniless. Charles arrives at Merricat’s home and begins to take control of their lives, intent on stealing their family’s wealth for himself. Charles is perhaps one of the more interesting characters, purely because we see him through Merricat’s eyes. We never really see much of his relationship with Constance and therefore don’t really know what’s going on with them. Although I thought Merricat as a narrator was brilliant it did mean that when she ran away or misunderstood something the reader missed out on information.

I loved the concept behind the book, and I have to admit it was one of the best written novels I think I’ve ever read. The main reason I wanted to read it is because they’re currently making a movie adaptation that’s being filmed in Ireland starring Sebastian Stan, who is one of my all time favourite actors. Now that I’ve read the book, I can’t wait to see it translated on to the big screen. It’s a dark, twisted and haunting novel that really leaves you feeling such a hurricane of emotion it takes a long time to work out your emotional response. I loved the magic of the story, the complexity of the characters but it was also tragically sad and left me with a bad aftertaste when I considered the ugliness that humans are capable of that this book explored. The taunting torture the girls were exposed to by the locals was sickening and the fact that at the end of the novel the girls were still haunted by these people who invaded their land and privacy was shocking and unsettling. The idea that people could actually be capable and approve of behaviour like that is unnerving and really makes me despair of humanity.

Basically, I really loved the story and I can’t wait to see the film, even though Sebastian’s playing a truly despicable character.

5-stars

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