October 2020 Book Club - We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Vote! Poll will close 9/12 because I’m impatient.

  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix

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Oh these are such good options.


I voted for two, which felt illegal.


I uh…also voted for two, but didn’t vote for four like the poll said I could >.>


I love Shirley Jackson so much and I did not want to have to choose.

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I love Neil Gaiman so much and haven’t read Sabriel and ages but remember it fondly.

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I voted for all of them. I literally love all of these books.


I appreciate that you guys like my choices but if everyone loves these books as much as I do, we’re going to have some trouble picking one :joy:

I did consider making the two Shirley Jackson books one option, since they are both so short.


We could… read all of them…

I’d do it


OK, we have a winner! We will read and discuss We Have Always Lived in the Castle in October.

I’ll probably reread The Haunting of Hill House as well, to be honest.



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PSA: If you get an edition of We Have Always Lived in the Castle that has an introduction by another author, skip the introduction, or at least read it after you’ve read the book. I read an introduction a year or two ago and it a) was dreadful and b) gave spoilers.

In fact, there’s an assumption made in the introduction that has baffled me ever since. The author of the introduction had a completely different interpretation of one scene than I do, so I know what one discussion question for this book will be!

midway through Chapter 2

All I can say so far is that Uncle Julien is rather odd. And I don’t envy either girl for their predicaments.


There are 10 chapters in this book. Thus, my intent is to post a set of questions per chapter, about every 3 days.

I’ll put any questions that I think are spoilery under cuts, and please put your answers under cuts if they may spoil past the relevant chapter!

Chapter 1:

  • The villagers seem to have very strong reactions to Uncle Julian. The woman at the coffee shop doesn’t say his name and the women at the grocery store gasp when Merricat does. What do you think they believe about Uncle Julian?
  • Is Merricat correctly interpreting the villagers’ reactions to her as hostile?
  • I think they think he’s responsible for something horrible that caused the family to be ostracized in the first place.

  • Merricat is focusing too heavily on other people’s behaviors. I’m certain she’s blowing certain things out of proportion, but some villagers are being cruel, intentionally or not. Jim Donell, for example, and the children.


Chapter 2 questions!

Merricat and Constance each seem to frighten each other wtih teasing about changing things: Constance about going to the village, Merricat about asking for an extravagant gift. What do you think about the relationship between the sisters?

Do you think Helen Clarke is right that Merricat is blowing the villagers’ dislike out of proportion?

Who do you think poisoned the sugar? Do the characters believe the same as you?

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Chapter 3 questions:
Uncle Julian is constantly going over the events of the day of the poisoning. Why do you think he does that? What do you think about his relationship with his nieces?

Why wasn’t the poison in the rarebit?


Oops, I’m behind!

Chapter 4 questions:
What do you think Cousin Charles wants?
Now who do you think poisoned the sugar?

Chapter 5 questions:
Did Constance deliberately cut Uncle Julian off from talking about the last day?
What do you think of the way Charles treats Merricat? How old does he think she is? How old do you think she is?

Answering one of my own questions!

Spoilers for later parts of the book

This is one of the things that really makes me think Uncle Julian is right. Merricat died in the orphanage; everyone else is interacting with the ghost of a 12-year-old girl.

Because if the poisoning was six years ago and Merricat was 12, then now she’s eighteen years old. And everyone else, including Charles who doesn’t even know her, treats her like a child. He even refers to her as a “kid”! I can understand treating her poorly since he’s a jerk, but it doesn’t make sense for him to call her a child and Constance to not correct him if she’s 18.

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How did I miss this? I loved this book but remember precisely none of it. Checks out from library