We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Shirley Jackson
We Have Always Lived in the Castle Cover

We Have Always Lived in the Castle


I'm a sucker for formal technique. Case in point: this dark little compelling novel, my first exposure to Shirley Jackson and it will be far from my last.

I think what affected me most, since I'm talking about formal dispositions, is the way in which Jackson was able to evoke a society not only of the town and the way in which Merricat herself relates to it and how the citizens relate ot them, but as well as the inner workings of the Blackwood estate, with its trio of surviving members. Merricat's habits and chores, the few visitors her sister Constance takes, and her uncles constant rememberings of the even lend a somewhat gothic air to the narrative, as for a good chunk of the novel we're wondering what the real story is but due to the mundane events of the narrative keep sort of slipping away from us.

But this never gets boring. Far from it, this tension propels the simple narrative (no pejorative connotation here) at a speed even many crime novels would love to commit to, because we're allowed to enter this small, brilliantly dark world and see the nuances in the town's citizens and the Blackwoods. Even the ending, which is in complete regards to the beginning very much a reversal (sorry, no more than that, spoilers give me a rash), still holds up well to the conceit of the novel.

Thsi si due to Jackson's prose, her way of getting into the overgrown child that Merricat is, in her playful habits of casting spells and talking to her cat and running away on her property.

A magnificent little book, a pleasure to experience - the key point, not that we the reader understands the story, but that we experience - and one of the better pleasures I've had from a novel in a good time.