‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ – Shirley Jackson

London, November 2018


Living in the Blackwood family home with her older sister Constance and her Uncle Julian, Katherine (or Merricat) wants to keep the world out. But with Constance acquitted of murdering the rest of the Blackwood family, the surviving members are little short of local spectacle. Things are manageable until a long-lost cousin Charles appears, his arrival offering the remaining Blackwoods a choice that could totally fracture them.


This was astonishingly good, one of those that I’d been delaying reading in case I didn’t like it (weird I know). Told over less than 150 pages, the characters and sense of both physical and spiritual claustrophobia remained with me.

Yes it was haunting (which I’m sure I’m not the first person to observe) as well as a visceral examination of the implications of family love.

Vague spoilers ahead…

The twist at the end has been mirrored countless times so I half expected the villain to be someone other than poor Constance, the tragedy being that Merricat’s survival hanged on the complicit happiness of her sister.

The development of the sisters into a local menacing folklore was powerful – the power of the mob seen more sickeningly within these pages than anywhere I’ve read in a while.

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