Yep, I digging way into the backlist for this one – 1965. I will admit that before I started blogging I don’t think I’d ever heard of We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Then last year, it seemed that everyone was talking about it. It’s by Shirley Jackson, who you probably think you’ve never heard of, but you have. She wrote The Lottery, a short story you undoubtedly read in high school or college and it blew your mind.
With The Lottery in mind, I was prepared for We Have Always Lived in the Castle to be a little shocking. I read the whole thing waiting for the big shock to happen. It didn’t. It is a fairly straight forward story about two sisters who live in a big, old house at the end of town. One of the girls was tried, and acquitted, six years earlier for the untimely deaths of the rest of her family. The sisters have isolated themselves from the world around them yet the town continues to be interested in what goes on at their ‘castle’. And of course, something happens to disturb the equilibrium that has been established between the castle and the town, but I’m not going to tell you what happens.
We Have Always Live in the Castle is a quick read – barely more than a hundred pages – and the plot keeps it moving along nicely. For those interested in the craft of writing, it would be a great piece to study. But to be perfectly honest, I was expecting a little more from it. So many bloggers have been raving about it, but I thought it was just good, not great.
Who would like this book? This is clearly one of those novels you have to read if you want people to take your knowledge of American literature seriously. The edition I read had a foreword by Jonathan Lethem and it did a good job of contextualizing the novel within the American canon. I would also recommend this novel to fans of the gothic. Although it was set in Connecticut, I couldn’t help but picture it in the moors of northern England. Maybe my current geography is rubbing off on me? But it is sufficiently creepy to be placed in gothic genre.
I loved the sense of foreboding in this one and Merricat’s overall weirdness. Wanted to kick that cousin out the door on his tookus.
The cousin was the worst!
Like you, I didn’t know who Shirley Jackson was before joining the blogging community. I’ve seen this book pretty much everywhere last year… It intrigued me, but I forget about it. Now that you review We Have Always Lived In The Castle, I really want to discover this author. Maybe with The Lottery, which I’ve never heard of!
I know. I’d never heard of this book before about a year ago either, and then suddenly everyone was talking about it. Weird the way that happens. The Sparrow in another one that’s been popping up here and there.
I loved the audiobook of this. The reader had such a spooky voice! It undoubtably added to my enjoyment of it.
A good narrator makes all the difference.
I read The Haunting of Hill House not long ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was blown away by The Lottery and really want to read this one. Great review.
Definitely a good gothic read. I enjoyed it, but I think that The Haunting of Hill House is the better novel.
You’re the second one to say that and i’d never even heard of it til I looked up Jackson on Wikipedia!
Very interesting! I’ve actually never heard of this. (I must be living under a book-blogging rock!) I love the cover of it though – so delightfully creepy! I’ll have to keep my eye out for this!
I’ve heard many of the same raves you have, but I’m afraid that will taint my enjoyment… I’m expecting an utter creep-fest. Maybe I’ll wait a while to re-adjust my expectations.
Yeah. I was expecting a little more, especially given my memory of The Lottery.
Shirley Jackson also wrote two absolutely wonderful memoirs about family life — Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons. I’m not sure if they’re still in print, but I still have my mother’s old copies and have read and reread them. Very interesting when contrasted with her fiction!
It’s so hard not to let hype raise your expectations of a book! Sometimes a book can still live up to the hype, but I’ve also had the experience where I’m less wowed than I expect to be.
This one isn’t as disturbing as The Lottery, but it’s still creepy. Sarah Water’s novels reminded me a bit of this one.
when I read The Lottery I was thoroughly blown away – especially when I realized it was published in 1948! I believe I will add this one to my October pile as I do really like gothic! wonderful review and we can compare notes when I read it! 🙂
I have one of Shirley Jackson’s novels on my to-read pile (The Bird’s Nest–I’m waiting to read it around Hallowe’en to make it rather festive 😉 ) but I also have this book and a number of her other stories on my wishlist. Great review! (and good to know that it’s also a quick read 😉 )
I think Jackson is probably perfect for around Halloween! Enjoy!
I loved, loved, loved this book. I had already read The Lottery but this was just so much better and it turned me into a Jackson fan!