Book Review #1 – We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Shirley Jackson)

Hey there,

I don’t know why I never did this before. As a bibliophile, and as a blogger who’s focus is ‘books, beauty, and Parisian dreams,’ why have I never blogged about a book review, before? Yes, I’ve given suggestions, and yes, I’ve shared my monthly book stacks, but I never took the time to write a review. Maybe because I’m not sure if that’s what my particular readers are drawn to… let me proceed with this book review, and you can let me know what you think!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

This purchase was a cover purchase. I don’t do that too often, because more often than not, the cover is significantly better than the story. But there was just something haunting about this cover that I had a gut feeling the story would match. I wasn’t disappointed: the story was indeed haunting.

I read this book in a day. The writing is superb in that it’s descriptive but not heavy, and flows in a way that makes you want to keep reading. It’s written from the perspective Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood. Let me give you a spoiler-free synopsis.

The Blackwoods are a family of three: Uncle Julian, the oldest in the house, and a crippled man who suffers from dementia. Constance, the oldest child in the Blackwood family, a protector, a caring head of the household. And Mary Katherine “Merricat” (and her cat Jonas), a curious child who believes in the power of words and intention. The Blackwoods weren’t always a family of three. There were many more Blackwoods in this house, until they decided to have some sugar with their dessert. There was arsenic in the sugar. But Uncle Julian only took a little – he lived. Constance doesn’t take sugar – and she washed the bowl. And Merricat was sent to her room without dessert. Who put the arsenic in that bowl? Why did Constance wash it? And why does the village fear and hate the remaining Blackwoods? And who is Cousin Charles, and what is he doing here, visiting?

This is a book of mystery, of intrigue, of suspense and a little bit of magic.

I loved Merricat; I thought she was a fascinating character with so much depth, and seeing the world from her perspective made my mouth drop at a few points.

Once you reach the halfway point in this book, it becomes something you don’t want to put down until the end. There are too many questions and it would have kept me up at night if I hadn’t made my way through it.

That being said, unfortunately the end of the novel was not what I expected, and not in an, “Oh my gosh, what an ending!” kind of way. There was some predictability and outcomes I guessed, and the end itself I didn’t guess, but was also rather disappointed with. I expected more. I wanted more. The story keeps you haunted all the way through, until those last two chapters, and then you’re begging for more.

Despite that, the book was an easy, enjoyable, and engaging read. I really loved it. It’s one of those books that I will probably read again, and will likely pull out every Autumn, as it seems to fit the weather and the ‘mood’ of this season.

Pros: Well written, easy read, amazing characters and dialogue, haunting storyline, suspenseful
Cons: A little confusion in chapter 9, some questions left unanswered, uninspiring ending


Currently Reading: By Gaslight by Steven Price
Initial Thoughts: Okay, so I see how this storyline could be interesting, but my God, it’s complicated and all over the place. Not to mention, the lack of QUOTATION MARKS (WHAT?!) add to the madness and confusion. Why would anyone choose to exclude quotation marks? Let’s see if I actually make it through this book…


What do you think? Should book reviews become a more frequent thing on lifeofcloud? Let me know in the comments! And if you’ve read this book, as well, please share your own review, below!



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