Hi friends! We’re zooming through August, aren’t we? I’m thinking about doing a horror reads month for October and Halloween where I only read horror and thrillers – does that sound appealing to anyone? Let me know your thoughts!
Synopsis & Quick Thoughts
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a novella by Shirley Jackson, who is known for The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery, among other works. Mary Katherine Blackwood lives in a house on the outskirts of town with her sister, Constance. Everyone else in her family is dead.
This book was very ominous and foreboding. Although it felt like something was off the whole time I was reading, it wasn’t until the end of the novel that I would start to consider this to be a horror read. The prose was fantastic, but the pacing dragged for me. It took me ten days to read a 146 page book. The end was strange and satisfying, but it felt like it took too long to get there, in my opinion, even for a novella.
I greatly enjoyed the atmosphere of this book; it was the standout selling point of the novella for me. The setting, writing style, and overall atmosphere was unsettling, creepy, and it felt like something was off even though there was nothing outwardly wrong on page. It kept me reading despite the pace, because I wanted to see the reveal behind what actually going on with Mary Katherine and Constance.
Without going into spoilers, I also really enjoyed the ending. I think it wrapped up well. The prose was also clear, sharp, and well-worded, which made the story feel like a work of art and added to the sinister nature of the plot. I think I probably would have DNF’ed this novella if it were written by any other author.
The pacing of this novella just wasn’t it for me. I felt like I was reading through pages and pages of nothing and character development and ominous vibes without a lot of direction. The whole plot dragged for me and it took me a week and a half to read a novella, which is super uncharacteristic of me. This felt like more of a thriller or ominous fiction than a horror. I was unsettled toward the end, but I was by no means scared or on the edge of my seat while reading.
Rating & Final Thoughts
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is 3 out of 5 stars fine. The prose was intriguing and fun and the ending was thrilling, but the majority of the book dragged for me. If you’re a fan of Shirley Jackson, I think this would be a good, quick read, but if you’re looking for more of a traditional thriller I would probably pass on this one.
Purchase We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson here.