We Have Always Lived in the Castle Review

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson is what many consider to be a classic gothic tale. I dove into the book without any pretense or knowledge of what the story would be about. I personally find the story to be that much more engaging as I read along, especially for short stories such as these. Is this story dark? Yes. Is it depressing? Yes. Is it weird? A little. Is the story fun to read? No, not really. The story was engaging in the beginning due to its quirkiness and the need to know what really happened to the family, but once you get past that part, it starts to get a bit hollow as it’s just a constant repetition of events. I do admit having to skim through some of the final pages in the last few chapters (never skipped any dialogue parts) only because it was just too dragging and I knew nothing of importance will be missed.

I wished they were all dead and I was walking on their bodies.


The stars of the story are obviously Merricat and Constance. These two have a weird relationship in that at first it seems normal and sweet, but then as the story goes on, the psychological elements come into play. Obviously, Merricat is a twisted child harboring dark thoughts about hurting others. Mental health issues may also come into play as she spends a lot of time going over rituals she believes will protect herself, Constance, and Uncle Julian. I found her behavior obviously odd and, at times, just plain irritating. Constance, on the other hand, just caters to Merricat’s every whim. At first this could be seen as family love and survival, but it could also be something darker.

“Poor strangers. They have so much to be afraid of.”


I guess the best thing I can say about this short novel is that regardless of how repetitive and dull the story can be at times, it still forced me to think at a deeper level about whether things really do seem to appear as they are, or is there a darker tone underneath that the author wishes for the readers to decode? Why is there hardly any interaction between Merricat and Uncle Julian, and why must she always remind herself to be “nicer” to him? Can we really trust the words of Merricat with Constance being damaged as she is and Uncle Julian who has lost his memories? In a way, I have more questions than answers after having completed this short novel, and for once in a long while, I find that actually okay.


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