We have always lived in the castle | Shirley Jackson


My only regret at reading this book is that now I will never get to read it again for the first time. I haven’t stopped thinking about it, or about sweet feral Merricat, and all her talismans and rituals and fixations, and all her fear, and hate, and love, and delight. I don’t know when I last felt so haunted by a book.

(‘Ha! Job done’, cackles Shirley Jackson, from the other side.)  

There’s so much to say about We have always lived in the castle that it’s impossible to know where to start. I can do a standard review and talk about imagery, themes, form, style, blah blah blah, but that misses the point. Even though there is so much to analyse as a literary work, and social commentary. And then Shirley Jackson as an extraordinary writer, a one-woman horror story/tragedy in her own right, who I can’t help but compare with Sylvia Plath but less photogenic.   

But really I just adored the whole psychological hot mess of it all. And what I really loved was that it was never questioned why [the culprit] poisoned their family. In Shirley Jackson’s world – well, these things happen. Shirley Jackson shut herself in her writing room away from her family, with her booze and her demons, and wrote horrible stories. Horrible stories about women trapped in their homes, women with horrible children, women with cold mean husbands or with cold mean neighbours, women who found leaving the house terrifying, and terrifying things happening when they did, women wanting justice and revenge. She wrote what she knew, and this is why ‘horror’ is such a misnomer for her work.

This is useless as a review I know, but it really is a case of ‘Just read it and you’ll see what I mean’.

Now shall we take Uncle Julian out to sit in the sun, and what shall we have for lunch?