We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson (Review)

So I read this awhile ago. I got it from my local Age UK charity shop for like, 98p or something. I tend to buy my books from there now because it’s close, and the books are cheap, and I’m glad the money is going to a good cause. It was one of the ‘Penguin Modern Classics’ which is why I picked it.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a strange book. It’s short…a novella? I finished it in a couple of days and whilst it was super strange I was hooked. As it’s so short, and because it just mostly chronologically documents a particular period of time in the life of the main character, I got the impression that it would make a really good stage adaptation. I don’t know if it’s been done before on stage or not. I would go to see it if it ever pops up.

Basically the story revolves around the main character, an 18 year old girl (Mary Katherine Blackwood) who has mental health problems and is a very unreliable narrator, who lives with her sister who is in her 30s (Constance), and their disabled uncle (Uncle Julian). The uncle is physically unable to leave the house, and the elder sister has severe agoraphobia which developed due to a rather traumatic set of life events, so also has not left the estate in many years. The villagers have apparently never liked the Blackwood family and so the story is about how this small, isolated family who have by now adjusted to their odd way of life suddenly have everything shook up again by an unexpected visit from their cousin, Charles. I can’t really say anything more about the plot other than that or it wouldn’t be worth reading it because as I say it’s a short book.

Would recommend if:

– You prefer to read shorter books than massive long novels. This won’t take you long to read.

– You are interested in the portrayal of mental illness and/or disability in fiction.

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