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We Have Always Lived in the Castle

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  41,608 Ratings  ·  5,333 Reviews
Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods - until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 158 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Penguin Modern Classics (first published 1962)
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Nataliya
Dec 12, 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
s.penkevich
Feb 21, 2016 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
May 02, 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.
Bill  Kerwin
Sep 13, 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
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
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
Jason
Jun 25, 2013 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
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Oct 25, 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
Kinga
Feb 06, 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 06, 2014 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
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
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.
Becca
May 01, 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
Althea Ann
Oct 16, 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
Feliks
This obscure novel of dread & suspense by distinguished author Shirley Jackson is not only my #1 favourite work from the entire genre of the supernatural; it is my #1 favourite fiction title by any female author. Period. It is also my #1 favourite work of modern American fiction; and my #3 fave work of fiction by any American writer at all (only Herman Melville & Thomas Pynchon take higher honors). For its century, it is my fifth favourite fiction book worldwide.

This is really astoundin
...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
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 ...more
Fabian
Nov 29, 2016 Fabian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Call it "Grey Gardens" 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.
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
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
Frankie
Sep 27, 2016 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.
sydney
Aug 08, 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
Rowena
Mar 05, 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.
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
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.
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
Diane
Aug 08, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading Shirley Jackson stories would make one scared to live in New England -- the villagers there are cruel, ready to riot and will pounce on you the moment you are vulnerable.

I had previously read Jackson's "The Lottery," which would make my list of best short stories, so I was prepared for dark atmosphere and tension in "We Have Always Lived in the Castle." The short novel opens with 18-year-old Mary Katherine Blackwood (nicknamed Merricat) describing her trip to the village to get groceries
...more
Mike Puma
Feb 26, 2012 Mike Puma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012

Ahhhhhh, so that’s why one daughter is never, ever, under any circumstances, to be punished for anything.

Plot driven drama with moments of humor, pacing that picks up and runs, seemingly everything resolved, one that deserves that critique of ‘well-crafted.’

Not one to read about, so not one to write much about. Better, instead, to just read it; that won’t take you all that much longer to read.

Really, more like 4.5 stars; it's that good.

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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...

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“A pretty sight, a lady with a book.” 468 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.” 200 likes
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