When I started reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle by horror writer Shirley Jackson, I was fully expecting a story of blood curdling terror, faces in mirrors, dark shado
When I started reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle by horror writer Shirley Jackson, I was fully expecting a story of blood curdling terror, faces in mirrors, dark shadows down hallways, girls speaking in tongues etc…but I was very wrong. After about two chapters in I started to realise that Shirley Jackson isn’t the sort of author who presents you the story and the characters on a plate, but rather hints and nudges you with the scary details of her characters minds and pasts, all the while giving you the inkling that something in the Blackwood home is very wrong, you just aren’t sure what that thing is yet.
Eighteen year old Mary Katherine Blackwood fondly called by her sister and not so fondly called by townsfolk, Merricat; dislikes washing herself, dogs, noise, and as we later find out, being told off. Merricat has a habit of burying things, casting spells and creating safeguards against things she doesn’t like. Merricat lives with her older sister Constance and her crippled, slightly senile Uncle Julian. As the story first unfolds we are aware that Merricat goes into a unwelcoming town twice a week for groceries and books, her sister Constance never leave‘s the Blackwood property.
There is nothing Merricat loves more than her sister Constance, her cat Jonas, her routine and the control she has over her family home. But as the novel continues Merricat has a sickening feeling that things in her utopia are about to change, and she then begins to mentally plot against this. Just as she predicted things do change, when a distant relative comes into the Blackwood girls lives and threatens to disturb Merricat’s rule over her castle. Merricat knows that she must protect the life she has violently moulded to her pleasing, in her own bizarre, dark and twisted way.
The story is told in a first person narrative by Merricat herself, this allows the reader a first-hand insight into the characters troubled and dark mind in which she lives. While reading the novel it is difficult to remember that Merricat is actually eighteen, her thoughts are very self-obsessed and dark. Merricat is always right.
In this beautifully written, dark and even horrific novel, Jackson does not take the reader into a world of haunting, poltergeist activity and the supernatural, but into the mind of a dark and twisted young woman, thus allowing us to see a fragment of Merricat’s world, in Merricat’s own twisted and disturbing way.