We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle



The Pequod Review:

Shirley Jackson’s excellent final novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, begins with a gripping opening paragraph:

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

What follows is an intense story of two outcasts who live in a large house isolated from the nearby village. More than anything, the success of Jackson’s novel lies in its mysteriousness; it is never fully clear what the motives are of the protagonists, nor of the townspeople who reject them. This gives the book a hazy and ambiguous quality, one heightened by the mystery of a family tragedy six years earlier. The book also effectively explores deeper themes of community acceptance, and of finding love and togetherness despite the threat of outside intruders. This is one of Shirley Jackson's best novels.