Review: “We Have Always Lived In The Castle” by Shirley Jackson

Review: “We Have Always Lived In The Castle” by Shirley Jackson

What an exquisite piece of literature. This book evoked so many feelings from the very beginning. Our narrator, Mary Katherine Blackwood is so loveably dark and superstitious, that I can fully understand why some readers may consider her an unreliable narrator. But I believe the contrary.

I believe that Mary Katherine is a reliable narrator and that she sees truths that other people ignore. Sure, her use of “magic” as a means to try and control her environment seems silly, but I like her. I admire her. There is a strength to this young girl (she’s only eighteen); a strength and willingness to act, weird though the action she chooses to take may seem the reader. She is also strong because she does not allow herself to be affected by the outside world. Maybe at one time she did, but since then she has built safeguards around herself. These safeguards make her seemingly impervious to the rude villagers she must expose herself to on a weekly basis. Moving on from though.

I’ve heard it said about this book that it is a modern gothic romance. There are a few elements of the book that allow it to be placed, very generally, in the gothic romance genre. There is the castle itself. The setting must be dark and brooding and as much a living character as the people characters. There is the bad, bad man. Cousin Charles fits the bill quite nicely (evil, evil man). Then, there is the damsel in distress. Well, no, that’s not right. There is the silly female who allows herself to be trapped. Constance is rather silly. These elements are typical of the gothic romance genre, and though they do allow for the book to be lumped in with others, I don’t think it’s a perfect fit.

But this book is dark, so applying the word gothic is very appropriate. But it’s dark in that it shows how incredibly ugly people can be towards those that have misconceptions placed upon them by a third party (like the media). The people of the village are ugly to Mary Katherine and Constance because of a tragic incident in the Blackwood house six years ago that Constance is blamed for. Mary Katherine and Constance rarely leave the house (Mary Katherine only leaves because they need food) because of this. But when given the chance, the ugly villagers wreck havoc on the girls.

From this information it would seem that the girls never leave because they don’t want to deal with the animosity. And maybe, to an extent this is true – this is probably why they initially never left. But the girls love their home; they love their life. They are happy, well Mary Katherine is, happy with the way things are. Constance has moments of doubt, and I never quite figured out where they stem from, but she is happy, too. People simply don’t leave them alone. They pester them and they are rude to them, even though these two girls have never done anything wrong to these ugly people. And when tragedy strikes again, these two strong, but silly, women pick up their lives and continue on. Happier than ever.

That’s all I’ll say about the book for now, but there are so many other wonderful comments and insights to be made about this book. Jackson writes beautifully; so beautifully that you can’t help but finish the book.


Genre Exploration: Magical Realism — Chapter Adventures

Genre Exploration: Magical Realism — Chapter Adventures

Here is a wonderful explanation for those that are somewhat confused by the term “magical realism.” I tried explaining it in my last review, Review: “The Accident Season” by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, but I don’t think I did a great job of it.


Another day, another installment of my Genre Exploration series, where I discuss genres I don’t normally pick up, define them, talk about their classics and new releases, recommend books and authors, and much more. This time I want to talk about magical realism. I’ll be focusing on Latin American magical realism to honor Latinx Heritage Month, given that this genre originated and flourished here. I […]

via Genre Exploration: Magical Realism — Chapter Adventures

Review: “The Accident Season” by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Review: “The Accident Season” by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

I took a really long time to read this book. Way too long (literally the entire month of October. This fact is ironic, but thou will only get the irony if thou has read the book. So, if thou is curious now, thou should, most definitely, go read this book).


There, I said it for you.

Anywho …. This book was … enchanting; whimsically enthralling; hauntingly beautiful; modern folklore to twist the mind around. It was all of these things and still very, very REAL and RAW. It blurs the lines between using a piece of the plot as a metaphor and this piece simply being a very real part of the story.

So, this whole “Accident Season” happens to this family once a year. Therefore, once a year the Morris family wears several layers of clothes, clumsy/doofus – proofs their house (think of it like baby-proofing, but to an extreme), and basically tries very, very hard to not trip, fall, or scrape anything.  Of course, this only barely keeps them out of the local hospital on a regular basis. But wait! Who makes up the Morris family? (I’m so glad you asked!)

The Morris family is made up of four high school teenagers and their way cool artist mama. Alice is the oldest and more resistant to the belief in the “accident season.” Cara and her step-brother (but not really) Sam are the youngest and blame everything that happens during this time on the accident season. And then there is their friend Bea, a rendition of the wild child, but more earthy. Bea is the same age as Cara and Sam and, technically, not related, but still enough apart of the family that she gets affected by the weird juju as well. Oh, and Elsie. [But I’m not explaining her because I am evil and want you to read this book *cackling laughter*.]

Now that we know who this karfuful is all about, time to give you a wee bit about the book. The book follows this family through their current accident season, “‘One of the worst.'”  A hospital visit has already happened and there is an eerie mystery going on as well that Cara is determined to figure out. As the book goes on these teenagers are doing teenager-y things (meaning doing things that are most definitely going to get them hurt), but they are being mirrored by fairy-ish changeling creatures.

It is this relationship between the changelings and Alice, Cara, Sam, and Bea that gives this book a folklore feel that pulls you in. Doyle, gives you hints at the beginnings and slowly begins to give you more and more, but it’s never enough so you keep reading and falling in love with this achingly real and magical characters. Then, when you reach the end …


That’s all I’m saying about the ending. But, as if this AHMAZING review *cough, cough, rambling, cough* has not already enticed you to immediately go out and buy this book, there is one more thing. It has a wonderfully grown up lyrical poem/chant/song/prayer (you make the final decision.)