SPOILER ALERT!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson, Thomas Ott, Jonathan Lethem

This is a book that has received a lot of praise from readers whose opinion I value very much and I was looking forward to this book. Especially as it is Halloween and it is just the right time for a creepy story...

 

Set in New England in the late 50s early 60s (?) the story is told through the eyes of Merricat Blackwood, who lives with her older sister and her Uncle Julian in a small community. As the story develops it becomes clear that there is a dark family secret - not taking too much away from anyone who is planning to read it - which causes the community to treat the family who is already set apart because of their wealth and eccentricity - as outcasts. 

 

 

What is interesting about the story is that Jackson describes how a family deals with the turn of events 

that destroyed them 

(show spoiler)

without guilt and without blame, but I wish Jackson had revealed more about the "otherness" of her cast of characters. Just a little more insight into what made them tick would have helped to make the story more tangible. 

 

So, why did it not happen for me? 

 

For one, Merricat is supposed to be around 18 years of age, but the narration gives the impression that she is much, much younger, which did not really work for me. I mean I could possibly accept that she is mentally much younger (whether for psychological or neurological reasons), but it was difficult to get to grips with that other characters would not address in any way that her mindset was clearly not that of an 18 year-old.   

 

Next, as I read Merricat's story, I could not shake the thought that she suffered heavily from at least one if not a few anxieties and obsessions. But because I could not get over looking at the story from that angle, it took away from the creepiness of the story, i.e. the part I was looking forward to. And that lack of creepiness just made it into a profoundly sad tale of a young girl who is caught in her own set of conditions and none of the people around her realise it.

 

And lastly, there is the tone in which the story is told. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is made out to be highly dramatic. This really grated on me. I get that this was meant to create an atmosphere and that the way the story is written reflects the disturbed and somewhat confined mind of the narrator (Merricat) but the effect was somewhat lost on me because it was just so overused.