Publisher's Note:  

Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiousity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

by Shirley Jackson

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Overall Review:  

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

Creepy and jarring, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a unique tale with disturbing turns. It tells of two sisters, Merricat and Constance Blackwood, who live in isolation with their ailing uncle after a family tragedy that makes them outcasts in their village. Although they are happy together, Merricat endures unthinkable taunting and hostility from the rest of the village. Shirley Jackson cleverly captures the reader’s attention by referring to future events so that the reader is unable to put down the book because he or she absolutely has to know what happens. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that there are ominous ripples underneath the smooth fabric of the characters’ lives. It is, in fact, the simplicity of the narration of the story that makes it so sinister. Unlike in most stories, the sense of right and wrong seems to be lost to all except the reader, and the horrors that confront you are not the kind that jump out at you in the night – they are the kind that creep slowly into your mind and make you itch and grow cold. 

Although it has a sudden ending and almost seems plotless, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is short and impactful. It is clearly the work of a master storyteller who knows how to show and not tell.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language: 3 mild obscenities; 5 derogatory names

Violence/Gore:  Secondhand report of murder; characters imagine and talk about violence and death in a few scenes; a character kills animals in a non-explicit scene; secondhand reports of 2 natural deaths; arson; characters destroy a house in an extended scene

Sex/Nudity:  None

Mature Subject Matter:  

Murder of family members, bullying, fantasies about violence.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

A character smokes in a few scenes; a character drinks wine.

Reviewed By Olamide
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