Paul's Reviews > We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
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's review
Mar 26, 2008

it was amazing
Read in April, 2008

** spoiler alert ** Ah Merricat, silly Merricat, I do believe I love you. I'm drawn to interestingly insane women, and though of course you would poison me in the end, what a maddening and mysterious time I would first have. You are high on my list of literary loves. At least ones I dare speak of.

What I found so wonderful about this novel was the consistency of Merricat's insanity. Too often an author will distill the essence of insanity into the chaotic, and this is rarely a truism. Insanity is more often an overly-demanding focus, a hitch in a character, a mannerism that has growth as a cancer. Merricat (who I cannot help but to picture as beautiful, with long and lustrous black silken hair---despite all stated references to the contrary)loves to be left alone (that is, alone with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian) and she loves her superstitions. Her superstitions I found charming, and the lengths she will go to in order to remain alone, well, that is the crux of this novel.

Merricat, silly Merricat, one day I will go into the village and distribute much-needed and much-deserved vengeance on your only somewhat illusory tormentors, and then I will go off (I dare not approach your house---such is forbidden) to await you on the moon.
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02/06/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by Nora (new)

Nora Dillonovich fantastic review paul dear! i am on my poor, utterly destroyed kness begging, pleading, crooning like the member of the Temptations everyone forgot about... can't we hang out? I no longer work ze weekends. I am a fully emplyed counselor-type now with an 8-5 weekday schedule. It's strange, I know, but hopefully conducive to more frequent chats and cheese and wine? Non?

message 2: by Amari (new)

Amari Paul, I love your review. I would love it more if I knew what the following meant:

Too often an author will distill the essence of insanity into the chaotic, and this is rarely a truism.

I note that you have listed no Bernhard. What gives?


message 3: by Paul (last edited Nov 30, 2008 07:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul I mean that too many authors (in all media) believe that if a character is insane, then all actions must be rooted within that insanity, as if the insane are not capable of any sane acts. Chaos has nothing but chaos, but the insane do have moments of sanity. Characters like the sisters are far more believable and compelling: individuals who can and do act normal, except...sometimes.

And, yes...I'm severely lacking in the Bernhard department. In my defense...I've been reading "light" for a few months, because I spend so much of my day writing that my brain rebels at night. Bernhard. But...where is your Bolano? I look, but I do not see.

message 4: by Amari (last edited Apr 10, 2012 09:59AM) (new)

Amari ah, understood. well put.

oh, i didn't mean to criticize with regard to bernhard. it came out all wrong. maybe i just felt like typing "what gives?".

i have been struggling with the bolano issue for weeks now. the problem is that i fear that the violence inherent in the plot of los detectivos salvajes will destroy my possible enjoyment in it. and this is the book that has been recommended both directly and indirectly. and i don't want to read a translation since i read spanish, but i can't fathom the idea of reading 2666 in spanish becauseof its sheer length. so i am at an impasse and leaving him in the Someday neverland...

Gracie I loved your review! It was great. The whole time reading it I wanted to take Merricat home with me as a sister.

Amishrage well said, sir.

i am curious. i couldn't help but think of merricat as somewhat autistic. did anyone else get that impression?

Mary I just discovered Shirley Jackson a few months ago and have since devoured every scrap of her writings I could find. Not one wasted word in this book. I love, love, love it. Her description of Merricat's walk into the village hooked me right away.

A Slice of the Moon What a fabulous review. :)

Marie I love the comments on insanity. It's definitely something that's missing from many stories that try to show mental problems.

Lauren I love your review!

Shannon I enjoyed this review almost as much as I enjoyed the book! I love Merricat too...she is so beautiful and fragile...but surprisingly strong.

message 12: by kush (new) - rated it 1 star

kush I agree with Amishrage ---well said!!

Kumari Please remove the spoiler from your review.

message 14: by Íkh (new) - added it

Íkh Lãśś Can anyone tell me how to download a book!?

message 15: by Tria (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tria Seriously, dude, use spoiler tags already. It's not cool to blow such a big plot point so early in a review, it means anyone even scanning to try the book out will end up seeing it. I wouldn't have appreciated that had I come here before reading the book.

I like Merricat, oddly enough; in some strange ways she and I are alike. I have a lasting impression that she might be what I could have been had I not spent years fighting to keep my mental illnesses (yes, multiple: OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder & ASD (if you count that as a MI)) under as rigid control as I could muster for much of my life. (No, I've never killed anybody. And seriously, deal with that spoiler please.)

The Transmuted Tree Why on earth would you put a spoiler in the 2nd sentence of your review w/ no warning? What a shitty thing to do. You ruined a pivotal part of the plot for me. Simplest thing in the world to say 'this review contains spoilers.'

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