" We Have Always Lived In The Castle" ~ Shirley Jackson

**** Big Fat Spoiler Alert. Plot details will be discussed without limit.****

Somehow this one slipped by me for the first 54 years of my life. I’ve just finished my first read of it.

I’m interested in talking about it, and other Shirley Jackson works- since I’m hooked and wish to find her other novels and short stories. ( I did read “The Lottery” in Jr. High. Must re-read it ).

The only thing I want to throw out for now by way of starting a dialogue is the fact that redemption seemed mighty undeserved and yet the redemption of the villagers at the end occurred anyway. Despite the horrific acts just prior.

Why? It’s entirely out of character with everything we’ve been presented with so far. It’s clear we are dealing with an Unreliable Narrator, and maybe I should keep that more in mind. But…it’s too pat for me. The sudden turnabout.

On a larger scale, I spent most of the book wondering if the entire thing was a construct inside of the head of Constance who had in real life been imprisoned for multiple murders.

OR- that Merricat did indeed commit the crimes and her older sister, always the protector, took the fall for it.

Much to ponder here.

I didn’t want to see this just drop off the page, so my 2¢:

I read it better than 30 years ago, and only remember the title and the odd Merricat name. Sorry.

I read “The Haunting of Hill House” because Stephen King recommended it in “Danse Macabre.” Except for the opening (also the closing) paragraph, it was a snore. No likable characters; didn’t care what happened to any of them–I was rooting for the house! King’s re-cap of Jackson’s story of how the novel came to be written was more chilling than the book itself.

Odd. I’m pretty well-read, but I’ve never heard of this book until last week, when it was chosen by my book group. Looks like both of us missed out.

I loved The Lottery as a kid.

You know, I almost used Merricat as my doper name.

Yeah, definitely an unreliable narrator, and maybe shared psychosis. I kind of felt that the offerings from the villagers were just that…offerings, motivated by fear and awe as the sisters took on a sort of mythical status.

I love this novel. Her cat telling her stories. Scream and gobble. The casual line about how on Tuesdays (or whatever day it was, I’m in another building and don’t have the book at hand) “I dress in their things”.

Me too, and the one thing I remember is the poem:

Merricat, said Connie, will you have a cup of tea?
Oh no, said Merricat, you’ll poison me!

Oddly enough, the cover is included in a spread of classic Penguin paperback covers in an ad in today’s NYT Book Review.

I haven’t read the “Castle” book yet but a few random comments about Shirley Jackson, who I first came across via the Haunting of Hill House novel and developed an interest in after reading that and some other works, including a short story collection.

I wasn’t aware of what Stephen King had said about Haunting but I thoroughly enjoyed it (and incidentally also thought the 1963 film The Haunting with Claire Bloom and Julie Harris, which was faithfully based on the book, was excellent – probably the best movie in the haunted-house genre ever made). In fact it was because of the movie that I bought the book, and hence discovered Jackson.

Jackson for the most part had an unhappy life and sadly died at a relatively young age, and the New Yorker traces how her frustrations are reflected in much of what she wrote. Most of her short stories seem to be rather odd for just that reason; maybe it’s just me, but they seem to have the peculiar attribute of setting what is often a very intriguing scenario and then abruptly ending, leaving a kind of vacuous ambiguity. It’s actually a rather fascinating style.

One book that differs radically from all the others is a warm and humorous account of Jackson’s family life in the Vermont countryside in the early 50s called Life Among the Savages. It belies much of the sadness of her life and is entirely bright and upbeat, and parts of it are really very funny. The part where she visits the bank at Christmas time looking for a loan, with her two little daughters in tow, is just priceless. :slight_smile:

What did you decide? I concluded that Merricat really did kill them, just as the two sisters discuss towards the end of the book.

I read this book over the summer during a long flight. I enjoyed it immensely.
I concluded the same thing that Merricat killed the family. I was confused why Constance allowed the Uncle to think Merricat was dead, but then I suppose it was easier to take the blame for Merricat if she was “dead”.