- Fizzy Thoughts: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Monday, November 03, 2008

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Shirley Jackson
160 pages

Dear Care,

You are a bad, bad influence. After reading your review of We Have Always Lived in the Castle I just had to go out and buy the book. And there I was in B&N faced with two versions. This cheaper one:

And this one, which cost a few dollars more:

I ended up with that second one (of course). Because isn't that the most spectacularly creepy cover? I fell in love with it on site. So you owe me two bucks.

You know, I don't normally go for books like this. But this year I felt compelled to read both this book and The Graveyard Book (have you read that one yet?). Both books are subtly creepy. Subtly creepy is good. I can handle creep in a subtle form. It's the books that creep me out to the point where I'm compelled to check the back seat of my car before I get in (even when it's kept in the garage) that I tend to avoid.

Of course, you know what the book's about. Two sisters...Merricat and Constance. They live in a big old house with their Uncle Julian, who isn't all there, either mentally or physically. The village has ostracized them. And something bad happened, although you don't find out what for awhile.

Jackson does a damn fine job of building the creepiness. Something odd is going on. Why won't Constance go to the village? Why is Uncle Julian so dotty? Why are all the villagers grey? Why is Merricat allowed to pour the milk but not handle knives (I mean really, she's 18, not 8)? And by the end, even though Jackson had tied up all the loose ends (except for the greyness, but I have my suspicions about that), I still felt the creepiness.

I think I need to re-read "The Lottery" (and what are you supposed to do with the title of short stories? Italics? Quotes?). I mean, I read it in high school (along with most of the nation), but all I remember is stones and that same creepy feeling I got from We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Have you read anything else by Jackson? Anything you'd like to recommend?

My only little quibble with the book is the title. While the syntax evokes Merricat, where's the freakin' castle? Last time I checked, it was a house. Although I guess We Have Always Lived in the House doesn't quite have the same ooomph.

Anyhoosie, thanks again for making me buy another book. B&N thanks you, too. Really, you should talk to them about a commission.

Happy reading!


PS: You don't really owe me two bucks.

13 comment(s):

bkclubcare said...

Dear Softdrink,

I was just about to run out and have the bank give me $2 bill (they still print them, don' they?) but then I read your last sentence. Whew.

I do know what the book is about and you do a damn fine job of writing a review of it that I read anyway!

You'll be able to read "The Lottery" very quickly by clicking here: http://www.americanliterature.com/Jackson/SS/TheLottery.html
And I really do not know if short story titles are italicized or in quotes. I studied engineering in college, not grammar.

I, too, was bugged about the castle. What castle!? You are so right about the creepy. I have to put more Jackson on my list of to-read-someday.

I'm thrilled to think that I may be able to earn commissions by recommending books to you! very exciting idea.

Or, I would be glad to spend $2.28 in postage to send you Cimarron? Let me know.

Kind regards,

bookbliss said...

I <3 Shirley Jackson! Have you read The Haunting of Hill House? It's creepy AND funny.

bermudaonion said...

Isn't it funny how covers can affect us? I was in Costco yesterday and was going to buy Marley & Me. The only version they had has Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson on the cover and I so do not want that cover, so I decided to wait to buy it.

raych said...

Oh, that creepy-ass Tim-Burton-esque cover was one of the scariest things about the book. Also, I kept forgetting that Merricat was 18 because she acts so young, and then I'd be all, OH YEAH! And it would creep me out even more.

Jessica said...

I loved this book! I agree with bookbliss, "The Haunting of Hill House" is really well done and really scary. Though I don't know about funny... Maybe I should re-read it.

Ramya said...

the cover is scary.. i would have gone for the first one.. just so that i don't have the creepy cover staring back at me from my bookshelf:) i get creeped out soo easily!:) happy reading!:)

Chris said...

I like both of the covers, but I'd probably go with the same one as you did :p It is deliciously creepy! Damn, I really have to read this one! I haven't read one bad review of it yet. The only Jackson I've read is The Lottery and it was one of the few short stories that we were forced to read in high school that I really enjoyed!

Lexi said...

Leila over at Bookshelves of Doom is doing The Big Read IV, a read-along kind of thing, where a bunch of people all read the same book at the same time, and they're reading "The Lottery." I think it just started today, in case you're interested.

I need to pick up a copy of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, myself. Sigh. Another stone on Mount TBR.

Dar said...

This is another one on my tbr list along with Coraline and The Graveyard Book. I love the second cover-if you're going to read creepy, you need to see it.

katayoun said...

i loved the review though really the i think the second cover is too creepy, what if you woke in the middle of the night, wanted to read and noone was home. too creepy!

Book Zombie (Joanne) said...

I loved this book, and I went for the more expensive, but totally worth it creepy cover too.

The 'Castle' in the title bothered me too, but then I started overthinking it and decided maybe it had something to do with how the family was quite prominent within the village in the past - and that the villagers viewed them as snooty royalty looking down upon the common peasants from their castle.
Told you I was overthinking :)

trish said...

I just got this book and that other book you sent in the mail the other day. YOU ROCK! I'll read 'em...soon. Is that vague enough?

anne said...

I love Shirley Jackson! "The Bird's Nest" (psychological study of multiple personalities) is cool. And "Life Among the Savages" is hilarious.

(At least I thought those stories were cool/hilarious way back when I read them...but they may have lost their punch over the years. I'll have to re-read them and find out.)

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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