We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Tuesday, Mar 20, 2012
What a strange little book about a strange little family in a strange little town. When the reader meets the Blackwoods, they are reduced to three: Constance, the oldest sister; Merricat the younger; and Uncle Julian, an old invalid. They live in seclusion, ostracized in their once-regal castle minus the family who were all poisoned six years prior.
While Constance was tried and acquitted of the murders, the remaining Blackwoods do nothing to sway the accusatory opinions of the townsfolk. In fact, the Blackwoods tease, torment, and encourage speculation in their neighbors when opportunity presents itself. While the reader suspects one sister of the murder, we don’t know which for sure until close to story’s end. The family lives in stagnation, not only in their unchanging routines, but also in suspended maturity and development.
When Cousin Charles comes for a visit, he upsets their precarious balance and ignites a defense in Merricat that can only end in disaster. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is reminiscent of the gloomily dilapidated atmosphere of Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger, both of which portray once wealthy families that have fallen victim to unseen forces.