Goodreads Review – We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson on Amazon

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

there are some serious spoilers in this review, but if you’re brave enough, read on

Full confession — I loooove the character of Merricat and the borderline incestuous relationship she has with her sister, Constance. Merricat is alternately infantilized and demonized, and the result is fantastic.

In this novel Shirley Jackson plays with the duality of good and evil, as well as the power of loyalty; Constance remains nearly blind to Merricat’s misdeeds, while Merricat acts as her devoted servant and surrogate child.

This is a novel where ‘bad things happen’ and everyone is both good, and bad. Merricat’s strong willed nature gets her in trouble with her family, and her response to being punished is to poison them all except Constance. Villagers then talk, and Merricat is the subject of gossip, and feared as she walks through the village to pick up household supplies; yet, as it turns out it is Merricat who is equally terrified of the villagers who literally throw stones at her as she passes. Later in the novel, Merricat’s response to Constance’s emerging romance with a relative who has their eye on their wealth and property is to burn the place down; the local villagers join in the destruction, stealing valuable items and destroying property.

It is interesting that in the conclusion it is the villagers who are most repentant; Merricat and Constance remain hidden in the remains of their demolished house, safely isolated from the rest of the world; as Merricat always wanted.

Jackson’s own experiences living in a small town in Vermont among local townspeople and all their biases often crept into her work (‘After You, Alfonse’, ‘The Lottery’, and ‘Flower Garden’, among others). This experience likely influenced her final scenes in ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ in which the villagers were literally throwing stones at the house.

You can see my reviews at & be sure to visit my Goodreads Author Page