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Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Updated: Sep 12

5/5 stars

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson (1962)

This October, in the run-up to Halloween, I've been watching scary movies... or just creepy... or fun, but Halloweeny, like Beetlejuice and The Addams Family. So, the other day I decided to watch the movie version of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, from 2018 (currently on Netflix), and then of course I had to re-read the book as well. And you know what? It's reeeeally good (the book). Shirley Jackson, man. She does creepy so well.


I feel like this one is hard to write about because the less you know going into it the better. But the basics are that the wealthy Blackwood sisters, Constance and Merricat, and their ailing Uncle Julian live in a gothic mansion on the hill, now that the rest of their family members have all been murdered. By who? We shall see...


Constance has crippling agoraphobia, Merricat is superstitious to the point of insanity, and Uncle Julian is stuck on a loop, obsessing over the night the family was killed.


No blood and gore. No monsters. Just a psychological thriller where you're never quite sure who's mind is the most broken.


The movie was fun too. I think a lot gets lost in translation because so much of the book takes place inside Merricat's own head - her own thoughts and feelings. But the actresses who play the sisters are appropriately neurotic and, at times, unhinged, and I feel like Crispin Glover is an expert at the barely-holding-onto-reality character type.


Watch the movie, or don't... but definitely read this book.


Accolades:

  • Named by Time magazine as one of the "Ten Best Novels" of 1962

  • In March 2002, Book magazine named Mary Katherine Blackwood the seventy-first "best character in fiction since 1900"

UP NEXT: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab


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