Mini book review: ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” by Shirley Jackson

by Patty Templeton

“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am 18 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 to be content with what I had,” so opens Shirley Jackson’s eerie mystery masterpiece, “We Have Always Lived in the Castle.”

What else do we know about Merricat Blackwood? She loves deathcup mushrooms, practices sympathetic magic, and townies hate what’s left of her family. The only surviving members are Merricat, Constance, and their Uncle Julian. How did the family die? Well, maybe it’s fear the town holds and not hatred.

If the name Shirley Jackson sounds familiar, it’s because you heard me yelling how damned gothic gorgeous she is every full moon midnight of my life. Not in hollering earshot? Maybe you read her much anthologized story, “The Lottery,” in school, or the literary ghost story, “The Haunting of Hill House.”

If you like quick reads that keep you on edge, unreliable narrators, or horror that is more psychologically brutal than gruesome, lay hands on “We Have Always Lived in the Castle.”

— Patty Templeton


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