Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5 stars)
Audio Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 Stars)
Total Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5/5 stars)
Merricat is content with her life. Sure, her sister Constance never leaves the house, and Uncle Julian seems to be getting worse every day, but she enjoys her life secluded from the rest of town. She explores the Blackwood Estate, left to her after her parents died in an unfortunate accident involving arsenic in their sugar, and keeps to a routine she finds soothing. But people talk. They blame Constance for the murder. When their cousin Charles appears one day in attempts to claim unknown riches, Merricat will stop at nothing to get him out of their house, even if it risks revealing her secrets.
In an intricately woven tale, we see the world through Merricat’s eyes. Her childlike nature, her distaste for most people, and her games infect the reader. We become sympathetic to her pleas, even if they are on the irrational side. Besides, who doesn’t want to be left alone? Who doesn’t want to protect those they care about? And who isn’t afraid of their entire world being upended? Merricat is painted as the perfect sympathetic character, but beneath it she harbors sociopath tendencies, with the inability to connect with anyone else. She likes to watch others squirm. But as the reader, you want them to squirm too.
As an audio book, Merricat’s personality shines, and that helps in the more drawn out portions of the book. While the writing was beautiful, weaving intricately through a maze of problems just like the house, I wonder if it meandered too much. After the most destructive moment, due to Merricat’s hatred of Charles, the book continued wandering through the narrative, almost as if it was uncertain how to conclude. Possibly, the story might have been stronger if it was ended sooner, or was shorter. I am not entirely certain. The thrilling nature of the narrative comes from the way it’s written, but for me at least, that was also it’s flaw.
That being said, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, will chill you to the bone. The revelation is well thought out, and while I figured it before its reveal, the seeds are planted well enough that it’s neither too obvious nor too wild a discovery.
With Halloween approaching, this thriller is definitely one to add to your TBR list.
Before you eat dessert tonight, make sure to check your sugar.
What’s it about?
Six years after four family members died of arsenic poisoning, the three remaining Blackwoods—elder, agoraphobic sister Constance; wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian; and 18-year-old Mary Katherine, or, Merricat—live together in pleasant isolation. Merricat has developed an idiosyncratic system of rules and protective magic to guard the estate against intrusions from hostile villagers. But one day a stranger arrives—cousin Charles, with his eye on the Blackwood fortune—and manages to penetrate into their carefully shielded lives. Unable to drive him away by either polite or occult means, Merricat adopts more desperate methods, resulting in crisis, tragedy, and the revelation of a terrible secret.