Book Review: We Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson

Surprising- a book for school that isn’t a terrible and grueling classic. My English teacher decided to force our class to read this because of the wonderful characterization and overall creepiness of the novel. Also, it’s procrastination on our fairy tale project (which I actually wanted to start, go figure). You’d think my review would be long and in-depth because I’ve been discussing it everyday in English, but I’m actually tired of talking about the plot and characters. So here’s my best attempt at a review!

First a summary:

Mary Katherine Blackwood has always lived in the looming mansion on the outskirts of a small town with her sister Constance. Everyone in her family is dead. She’s a girl of 18 who loves her sister and her cat. To her, the villagers are absolutely terrible and deserve to die. Every last one of them. She wishes to live in a place where no one can disturb her and her sister. The townspeople also wish for the girls to leave. Their parents didn’t just die; they were murdered. And Constance has been the prime suspect for six years.

Shirley Jackson is known for her creepy stories. Jackson gets her point across by exaggerating everything to a morbid extreme. Mary Katherine narrates the book. The reader gets a shock at the very first page. This girl is strange, whimsical, and cruel. Her thoughts will make anybody jump.

I think the book is well written and very suspenseful. I read it the weekend after my teacher assigned it for two reasons: 1. I didn’t want any spoilers and 2. I had other books to read!! I wouldn’t call my time spent with We Have Always Lived in a Castle wasted. It’s a good book. Your heart beats a little bit faster and your hands turn the page a little bit quicker as the story progresses. The mystery at the end is unbearable, though kind of predictable.

I wouldn’t say the book makes any really shocking revelations. Also, the ending is very anti-climatic. I’m sure it’s some sort of statement or symbol or something (we haven’t analyzed the whole book yet), or it may just be one of those endings that leave you wanting more. Either way, once I finished, I just looked at the cover for a second, threw it aside and went on with my life. I felt like the whole book’s thought provoking until the ending. Then, it just leaves something to be desired.

I could go in to all the symbols with food (How are these characters not bursting at the seams? All they do is eat!) or routine. Or I could explain the characterization of Mary Katherine and Constance or their craziness. But I’m not in school right now, so you’ll have to read the book to get insight on that!

I definitely recommend the book if you want a quick and fast paced read. My whole class is in love with the book so far. Maybe I’m just being extra cynical because everyone else likes it, but it wasn’t that great. Don’t get me wrong, though; it’s a good book.

3 Stars

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