Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” as Want to Read:
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  48,117 Ratings  ·  6,144 Reviews
Visitors call seldom at Blackwood House. Taking tea at the scene of a multiple poisoning, with a suspected murderess as one's host, is a perilous business. For a start, the talk tends to turn to arsenic. "It happened in this very room, and we still have our dinner in here every night," explains Uncle Julian, continually rehearsing the details of the fatal family meal. "My ...more
Paperback, 146 pages
Published 2009 by Penguin (first published 1962)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about We Have Always Lived in the Castle, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Josh Valley
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Maura Heaphy If you enjoyed the dark humor, and epic dysfunctionalty of the Blackwood family, you might enjoy "Cold Comfort Farm" by Stella Gibbons. If you like…moreIf you enjoyed the dark humor, and epic dysfunctionalty of the Blackwood family, you might enjoy "Cold Comfort Farm" by Stella Gibbons. If you like the bizarre mystery elements, and the strange child-narrator, you might enjoy "The Wasp Factory" by Iain Banks.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nataliya
Nov 02, 2013 Nataliya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bizarre, strange, haunting, sinister, disturbing, twisted, foreboding, suffocatingly claustrophobic, leaving you with the ever-growing sense of unease. What else can I say about this book to give it justice?

This is a chillingly terrifying story that has nothing to do with the things that go BUMP in the night. No, it's the odd terror that comes when things go BUMP in the mind. And the most terrifying things are those that are left unsaid, that creep up at you from behind the printed lines, just h
...more
Bill  Kerwin
Jul 09, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic, fiction

This book is a masterpiece. It is short and spare and written in crystal clear prose, yet so evocative that it is richer in nuance than most good novels twice its size. It is so good I could kick myself for not reading it years ago, yet so mythic I am convinced I have known it always, like a tragic folktale or a chilling childhood dream. And yet, for all its grimness, it is essentially a comedy: darkly, transcendently, funny.

The Blackwood sisters—28-year-old Constance and 18-year-old Mary Kathar
...more
s.penkevich
Dec 28, 2015 s.penkevich rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Her, that guy over there, him, and you.
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Diane Rehm Show
Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea?
Oh, no, said Merricat, you’ll poison me.
Merricat, said Connie, would you like to go to sleep?
Down in the boneyard ten feet deep!


A cliche in American horror films is to include children singing a song that is seemingly innocent at first, but gnaws at the nerves with a haunting sadism. We watch children, young and naive, signing and spinning in a corn field bathed by an autumn dusk; the cliche works because it is an image that we welcome through o
...more
Paul
Mar 26, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Raeleen Lemay
Apr 04, 2017 Raeleen Lemay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, classics, 2017
good stuff.

(review to come)
Madeline
Jan 19, 2015 Madeline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson's group of misguided investigators discuss the idea that some houses are inherently born evil, and are destined to be haunted from the moment they're built. We Have Always Lived in the Castle explores the opposite idea: how a home becomes a haunted house.

One of the many, many fascinating things about this book is the way it could have been approached in a completely different way. It could have opened with someone - a stranger to the village, most l
...more
Stephanie
4 stars -- bizarre classic tale with some thrills and chills....

I really like Shirley Jackson and especially enjoyed The Lottery! I do admit that it's taken me quite some time to pick up We Have Always Lived in the Castle and I am so glad that I did!! One of my groups picked this for a BOTM. I listened to the Blackstone Audio version (on Hoopla) and it was really well done!

18 year-old Merricat Blackwood lives with her older sister, Constance, and her Uncle Julian (who is suffering from dement
...more
Fabian
Apr 13, 2015 Fabian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
AKA: "Grey Gardens" as done by William Faulkner.

Are these unfortunate souls dead or alive in their domestic limbo? Oh, this is one delicious yarn with plenty of turns--with a terror that comes to us only by the Literary Mistress of the Dark Herself, Shirley Jackson. The luxurious morbidity, the Harper Lee Goth cynicism of the book, it is all an absolute delight. I am truly beginning to think that all of her books are like this one--the classiest horror of ALL TIME.
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Apr 20, 2013 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of suspense with gothic overtones
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Feliks Drzerzhinsky
Just plain creepy and oozing atmosphere. I won’t say much, went in cold and so should you. Not horror, no gore or monsters, it’s better than that. We’re talking the frailties of the human mind - MADNESS! We outgrow our fear of creatures that go bump in the night; so immured by the constant bombardment of blood & guts on TV that we can barely work up the energy to cringe anymore – but the fear of losing your mind? Now that one niggles, I know I have my bad days. So yeah, stories like this wo ...more
Jason
Dec 17, 2012 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jason by: Jennifer (aka EM)
I’m just going to come right out and say it: Shirley Jackson knows how to tell a story. Though she may be best known for her work in the psychological suspense genre, I’m pretty convinced she was not limited by this label, nor would she have been by any other, and this work would most likely fall into the “other” category. But there’s no reason to take my word for it; even Oliver (view spoiler) found himself drawn to her work, enthralled by her words, and taken in by her char ...more
Kinga
Jan 25, 2012 Kinga rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a cute little book!! Just listen to this:

"My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone
...more
Navidad Thelamour
“The least Charles could have done,” Constance said, considering seriously, “was shoot himself through the head in the driveway.”

Have you ever tiptoed down a hall in a dark house late at night, not sure if you really heard that bump in the night? That is what reading this novel was like, in all of the best ways possible. Shirley Jackson is a renowned master at the macabre, the unnerving, the Gothic genre, and this work puts her talents on full display—in HD. Most have read "The Lottery," whethe
...more
Nandakishore Varma
When they teach you public speaking, there is a concept called "ho-hum". This is a brief statement at the very starting point of the speech, sufficiently interesting so that the audience will immediately sit up and take notice. It is the "hook" with which the speaker snares them.

I have found that this works very well in narrative fiction too. If the first paragraph is sufficiently interesting, the reader continues long enough to get pulled into the story. While this is not essential, many great
...more
Paul Bryant
Oct 09, 2009 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels

Just another homicidal paranoid-schizophrenic proto-hippy 18 year old girl-child who lives with her older agoraphobic/social-phobic sister and dementia-sufferer wheelchair-bound uncle in an isolated house in the aftermath of a dreadful family tragedy whereby all of the family except these three were poisoned to death in that very house. It’s not an uncommon situation. I know three similar cases here in Nottingham, and I could have told Cousin Charles Blackwood, who turns up crudely attempting to
...more
Tatiana
I might be the only person in the world who thinks this book is too weird, senseless, anticlimactic and almost plotless. The characters however are charismatic in their craziness. It's just not my type of crazy.
Maciek
My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead.

This is the brillia
...more
Book Riot Community
Look, yes, I know, I’m very late to this party, but if you’ll allow me in, I promise to be the perfect guest; I won’t even touch the sugar. This beautiful, lyrical, haunting book about the remains of a family in the face of tragedy and death, and quite possibly murder is the best book I read this year, and it’s no wonder it’s one of the more synonymous works when it comes to Shirley Jackson. It reads like the origin story for a haunted house, examining the broken lives of two sisters and their u ...more
Althea Ann
Sep 26, 2015 Althea Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Merricat (Mary Katherine) and her older sister Constance live with their disabled uncle Julian in a rambling old house that used to house many more family members. Merricat ventures into town to shop once a week - no more, as her neighbors are actively hostile and rude toward her.
However, there may be a very good reason for that hostility, as we gradually learn...

When the (we suspect) money-grubbing cousin Charles arrives on the scene, the precarious equilibrium that the two sisters have preserv
...more
Becca
Mar 05, 2008 Becca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hands down--one of my all-time favorite books. No, it's not a horror or thriller in the contemporary sense, but just like her short story "The Lottery" this book exudes the "horror" of mass hysteria in its climactic scene. What does it take to make us stop being civilized, even for a moment, and do awful things to other human beings?

Yes, the residents of this house are different, especially the true murderer. But do they deserve what happens to them? And is their visitor any less a villain just
...more
Edward Lorn
Pretty language and creepy atmosphere mix with a plot I was expecting a little more from. I kept thinking, any minute now... any minute now this is going to blow a part in my hair... any minute now I'm going to think "Where has this book been all my life?" ... any minute now I'm going to see what everyone else sees in this book and cream my acid-washed Jordaches.

And then it ended. Yup...

The unreliable narrator worked well, and the agoraphobic feel of the piece was certainly established... but I
...more
Feliks
This obscure novel of dread & suspense by distinguished author Shirley Jackson is not only my #1 favorite work from the entire genre of the supernatural; it is my #1 favorite fiction title by any female author. Period. It is also my #1 favorite work of modern American fiction; and my #3 fave work of fiction by any American writer (male or female) of all time. Only Herman Melville & Thomas Pynchon take precedence. For its century, it is my fifth favorite fiction book worldwide.

This is re
...more
sydney
Aug 05, 2007 sydney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite book of all time, hands down, case closed.

Shirley Jackson wrote the short story "The Lottery," which is about a creepy small town. This follows in that tradition. It's about the Blackwells-- Mary Katherine, who is 18 but reads 12 to me, Constance, who is an adult but reads 18, and frail old Uncle Julian. And Jonas the cat. Six years before the book opens, the rest of the Blackwells were murdered at the dinner table. Now Mary Katherine (aka Merricat), Constance, and Uncle Jul
...more
Frankie
Jun 23, 2012 Frankie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, usa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christy
Shirley Jackson's last novel (written three years before her untimely death at the age of forty-eight) is not what I expected. Yet, I loved it. Still I can see why many readers were left scratching their heads. Isn't Jackson supposed to write scary stories? But....wow....This is certainly unsettling. And there really ARE a lot of similarities to her other works, and her life. Jackson herself was a very private person, fought several internal demons (varying addictions, agoraphobia, psychosomatic ...more
Christopher
RELEVANT UPDATE Aug. 10, 2016:
Hollywood Reporter reports that a new adaptation of We Have Always Lived in the Castle is being attempted, this time with Stacie Passon (Concussion, previously) at the helm. Michael Douglas is producing and Sebastian Stan (Captain America) will star as Mary Katherine and Constance's cousin Charles Blackwood. No word yet on what caused Sarah Polley and Mia Wasikowska's production to halt, but every indication is that all participants are still living (thank the gods.
...more
Michael
Nov 02, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: florence mcintosh
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this psychological thriller from 1962, but I was pleasantly surprised how the true circumstances behind the lives of two sisters slowly become chillingly revealed. It’s the kind of book that draws you in and compels you to read it in a couple of sittings. My attention was riveted from the first line:

My name is Mary Katherine Blackstone. I am eighteen years old, and I like my sister Constance and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cap mushroom
...more
Sidharth Vardhan
A few years back, a case of two sisters starving away in their own home had made the news in India. They had stayed there alone for six months, never meeting anyone - feeding for first four months on biscuits and bread they got from a grocery man, who would put at their door according to their instructions. Later they won't even ask for that. In last two months, they simply starved. Since they won't response, people had stopped bothering about them. What attracted someone's attention was, I thin ...more
Sh3lly ✨ Bring on the Weird ✨
Oh dear. I guess this one just wasn't my thing. I couldn't get into the characters or plot, and really, it was all vague and overly "mysterious" to a degree I found irritating and... oh boy, I'm going to say it. Boring. I know it's a classic, and it must mean I'm just too dumb to "get it."

I was expecting more horror and creepiness. I know this was written a long time ago. Maybe I just don't have the "depth" to appreciate subtle horror.

(view spoiler)
...more
Phrynne
Oct 09, 2016 Phrynne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a delightfully quirky book written like a gothic novel and with a great deal of black humour. My kind of book really. I loved the character of Merricat whose mind was obviously not dwelling in the same place as the rest of us right from page 1. I guessed how the story would pan out from the beginning too so no surprises for me but I enjoyed it all anyway.
Rowena
Feb 11, 2013 Rowena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, gothic
What a creepy story! My first Shirley Jackson book and I was really impressed by the way she held my attention from the first page.I enjoyed the dark tone of the book. In general, it was very unsettling but I didn't want to stop reading it.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Cold Hand in Mine: Strange Stories
  • The Willows
  • The Red Tree
  • Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque
  • Uncle Silas
  • The Little Stranger
  • Houdini Heart
  • The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
  • Collected Ghost Stories
  • The Magic Toyshop
  • Don't Look Now: Selected Stories
  • The Small Hand: A Ghost Story
  • Let's Go Play At The Adams'
  • Gothic Tales
  • The Ghost Writer
  • Isis
  • The Halloween Tree
  • October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween
13388
Shirley Jackson was an influential American author. A popular writer in her time, her work has received increasing attention from literary critics in recent years. She has influenced such writers as Stephen King, Nigel Kneale, and Richard Matheson.

She is best known for her dystopian short story, "The Lottery" (1948), which suggests there is a deeply unsettling underside to bucolic, smalltown Ameri
...more
More about Shirley Jackson...

Share This Book



“A pretty sight, a lady with a book.” 505 likes
“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead.” 214 likes
More quotes…