I was totally swept away by this book. I read "The Lottery" just as many of us did in high school or college, but (sadly) hadn't read anything else of Shirley Jackson's until now. That will shortly be remedied.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is both dark (DEEPLY dark, like a creepy, mouldering basement) and amusing (again, darkly) but always so wonderfully WITTY that I fell in love with it, right from the first chapter. The Blackwood house and property are both a compelling and lush setting, and a compelling and beguiling character. And as for the characters...
What a cast of characters these are. Almost none of them could really be called "innocent"...rather, they're just different shades of...well, dark. Old, frail Uncle Julian may be the closest innocent party that the story has. Constance hides her secrets, Merricat is gleefully WICKED...and sometimes they both terrify me, yet when compared to the people of the town, I couldn't help but feel sorry for those two lost sisters, who really did seem like they were not only from another time, but also from another planet (a description Merricat would quite approve of, I think!) Although this story takes place in the 1960s, the sisters - and indeed the entire house - seem more suited to the 1860s. At times they seem like old spinsters, and at other times like two abandoned little girls, but rarely do they seem to be two young women in their twenties, as their age suggests.
Expertly paced, beautifully and cleverly written, this book is absolutely a masterpiece. I'm still in awe of it.
Just one thing: if you have the version with the foreword, only read the first page and then skip the rest. It's well written but should come AFTER reading the e, not before, because it basically hits you over the head with spoilers and then proceeds to describe the entire story. More of a review than a foreword, and as well written as it was, it has no business being at the beginning of this book. Skip it and save it for after you've finished!!