We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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Before picking up this book, I knew Shirley Jackson best from her sick and twisted short story “The Lottery.” This book is similar to that story in that it’s short, its language is very carefully chosen, and its plot is fueled by a scapegoat mentality and mob violence. The narrator is Mary Catherine Blackwood, youngest surviving daughter of a rich family that was devastated by a mass poisoning. Her psychology is rife with magical thinking and OCD tendencies: she keeps burying objects for protection or some other made-up reason. The town sees her, her older sister, and disabled uncle as pariahs, and people are often cruel to them. The plot ramps up when a cousin shows up to disrupt their routines. It’s a very voice-driven novel, and Mary Catherine is a very intense character. It’s a kind of creepy book, with some fairy tale elements. Highly recommended.

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5 thoughts on “We Have Always Lived in the Castle

  1. I also just read this. It’s a one-of-a–kind reading experience, which is not something you can say about every book. I found the language to be crystalline in how precise it felt. And it made me want to talk about it!

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