REVIEW: WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE

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If you grew up in the U.S., you probably read “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. What you probably don’t know is that Jackson wrote a few novels, as well. One that I had been hearing great things about for a while but only recently got around to reading is WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE.

Katherine lives with her sister Contance and Uncle Julian in an affluent house isolated from the villagers who despise them. As she tells you in the opening paragraph, the rest of the family is dead. The reader gradually discovers what happened to them as the outside world creeps in.

Everything I heard about this story praised its voice, and I’m going to echo that. Jackson does a masterful job of crafting a narrator who seems earnest and content, but subtly unreliable. For example, there’s a section near the beginning where she’s telling us her daily routine and just drops the fact that on Thursdays she goes into the attic and wears their (the deceased family members’) clothes. It’s no more than a sentence. Without missing a beat she moves onto describing Friday, leaving you to be like WAIT DID SHE REALLY JUST SAY THAT?!

This book is certainly not for everyone, though. It’s mostly slow and atmospheric, the payoff being gradually and unwittingly drawn into a world of disturbing behavior and borderline psychopathy. There’s very little action. No gore.

Yet it’s still creepy as hell.

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