Book Review: We Have Always Lived In The Castle

pink shift dress brown sandals by 14 shades of grey

Full disclosure: this is more of a costume I put together for this book review rather than an outfit, because I couldn’t think of any everyday outfit to reflect this book. More on that later. First, the book.

“We Have Always Lived In The Castle” is a 1962 novel by Shirley Jackson. It tells the story of the Blackwood sisters, 18-year-old Mary Katherine, usually called Merricat, and her older sister Constance, who, along with their uncle Julian, are the only survivors after the entire family died of arsenic poisoning – the arsenic was mixed in with sugar and sprinkled onto their desert, but Merricat was sent to her room without dinner, Constance never takes sugar, and Uncle Julian barely survived. The three of them live a quietly happy life, despite being ostracized by the locals, but all that changes when a cousin, Charles, comes for a visit and threatens to turn their life upside down.

pink shift dress brown sandals by 14 shades of greypink shift dress cameo necklace by 14 shades of grey
In the second photo I was looking down to avoid the sun, and glanced up when the shutter clicked… it ended up way more Norman Bates than I thought, but given the tone of the book, it’s appropriate.

This book is kind of out of my comfort zone, but it’s beautifully written, a super quick read, and the story has the dark, sinister feel that I love, so I really enjoyed it. In a way, it’s like a more twisted version of I Capture the Castle, another of my favorite, and not just because they both have the word “castle” in their titles – two sister living in an unusual place; the story is told by the younger, bookish sister; a newcomer changing their life. Shirley Jackson does an amazing job of letting us inside Merricat’s head that we are entirely on her side before we start noticing that she is the least reliable of narrator. This is the first time I’ve read Jackson’s work, but I love this so much that I already have all of her other stuff waiting on my Kindle, and I’m looking forward to checking them out too.

pink shift dress cameo necklace by 14 shades of grey

As for the outfit, I really tried to come up with something that is inspired by the book in some way, and this is the best I could do. There’s a scene in the book where Constance makes dresses for Merricat out of tablecloths, so I picked my shift dress with a pattern that could pass for curtain or upholstery. It’s a 1960’s silhouette too. If I wanted to be even more literal I would go barefoot (because Merricat does), but my sandals will do. Actually I haven’t worn the dress in a while, but I think with different shoes, it’ll work for a spring/summer garden wedding or party. But of course the wedding season in Vietnam is during the coldest months, so… no dice.

pink shift dress by 14 shades of greypink shift dress brown sandals by 14 shades of grey

Dress: vintage, Necklace: Forever21, Sandals: thrifted

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7 Comments on “Book Review: We Have Always Lived In The Castle”

  1. pghbekka says:

    One of my favorite books! Apart from this, I preferred her short stories and memoirs to her other novels, but We have Always Lived in the Castle is a perennial re-read for me.

    Also, I love the way you found inspiration from it for your dress!

  2. Such a pretty dress! In the middle of reading this review, I was going to ask if you had read I Capture the Castle – and then you mentioned it! LOVE that book.

  3. Jess says:

    I love the pretty pink dress with the pattern, so lovely That sounds like such an interesting book! I love things like that, I will have to look it up!
    from the link up, jess
    please stop by
    http://www.elegantlydressedandstylish.com

  4. Rachel G says:

    I’m definitely getting a classic 60s vibe from this outfit, and I like it! You should wear it “in real life”. 🙂

  5. marie says:

    what a beautiful dress! making them out of tablecloths, that would be something to see come to life!
    Marie @ In Our Happy Place

  6. Beautiful dress. And this book sounds interesting but also sort of crazy. I think I might have to read it. Thank you so much for linking up!

  7. Great post! In addition to how pretty that dress is, I love how the one accidental expression matched the theme. 🙂


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