Sassy, No Spoilers: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

book reviews, Classics

Shirley Jackson, my resident Queen Weirdo

When I heard that Elizabeth Moss was portraying Shirley Jackson in a fictionalized biopic of the author’s strange and reclusive life, I had to watch it immediately (sorry, boyfriend)…especially considering I had just breezed through what may be her best book: We Have Always Lived in the Castle.


Let’s talk about how some scary books aren’t surface-scary at all, but instead get underneath your skin like a splinter and make it so that you can’t think about anything else for a while. That pretty much sums up the body of Jackson’s work: characters that are unsettling, possibly murderous, but you root for them anyway.

In We Have Always Lived in the Castle, we get a first-person perspective of an 18-year-old woman that we probably can’t trust, “Meerkat,” but she sure is sassy (like, hides in the woods, loves poisonous mushrooms, maybe a low-key witch, sassy). Her family life is bizarre and tragic, and you will want to discover why.

There are no shocking twists that a casual thriller fan couldn’t figure out pretty quickly, but hot darn, it’s a fun ride. The characters reminded me a lot of the Southern gothic tales of Flannery O’Connor (my #1 literary babe), and I feel like Jackson used a lot of her real-life experiences to plant the seeds of darkness in this novel’s characters.

And the fun part of this book? You’ll recognize a LOT of this story in Shirley. It’s like Easter eggs, but for classic horror fans. They do not disappoint.

Since it’s a short read (and easily found for free through the Libby app to send to your reading device!), I’ll just say read it. Watch Elizabeth Moss make you uncomfortable in Shirley.

I recommend this book for….

  • Fans of The Haunting of Hill House or The Lottery
  • People that just finished reading Home Before Dark, the new Riley Sager (the house will be eerily similar)
  • Cat lovers
  • Haunted house lovers
  • Someone obsessed with their own siblings (yeah, is that real? I want it to be)

Rating: 5 out of 5.