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We Have Always Lived in the Castle

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4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  32,020 Ratings  ·  4,159 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 hap ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics Deluxe, 160 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Penguin (first published 1962)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nataliya
Dec 12, 2013 Nataliya rated it it was amazing
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
Paul
May 02, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jason
Jun 25, 2013 Jason rated it liked it
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
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
s.penkevich
Dec 29, 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
Madeline
Jan 19, 2015 Madeline rated it it was amazing
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
Kinga
Feb 06, 2012 Kinga rated it it was amazing
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
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
Becca
May 01, 2008 Becca rated it it was amazing
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
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
Althea Ann
Oct 16, 2015 Althea Ann rated it it was amazing
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 favorite work from the entire genre of the supernatural; it is my #1 favorite title by any female author. It is my #1 favorite work of modern American fiction and my #1 fave work of fiction --across the board--by any American woman. It is really my third favorite fiction book, the world over--of the entire Twentieth Century. Period.

There is almost no yoke or limit which I would place on my praise
...more
Paul Bryant
Oct 06, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it liked it
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
Michael
Nov 02, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it
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
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
Sh3lly
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
Edward Lorn
Nov 10, 2015 Edward Lorn rated it it was ok
Shelves: 52-in-52-2015
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
Mike Puma
Feb 26, 2012 Mike Puma rated it really liked it
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.

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.
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Oct 21, 2014 Kelly (and the Book Boar) rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
The story of the remaining members of the Blackwood family and the history behind how they came to be the only residents living in a sprawling estate.

Absolutely DELICIOUS. This book has been showing up on “must read” lists for eons and yet I’ve always managed to avoid it. While some classics just make me sad because they don’t live up to the hype, this was not the case with We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Over 50 years old and completely transcends time. Jackson is brilliant.

Added bonus - ju
...more
Sam Quixote
Oct 20, 2015 Sam Quixote rated it it was amazing
The Blackwood family are all dead, poisoned by arsenic in the sugar bowl. All except for 18 year old Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood, the novel’s narrator, her 28 year old agoraphobic sister Constance, and their wheelchair-bound/dementia-ridden Uncle Julian. Constance was blamed for the deaths but was found not guilty at her trial. However the stigma of the incident and the Blackwood’s wealth and isolation has made them a symbol of fear and hate by the villagers. And the hatred is growing…

S
...more
Diane
Aug 08, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it
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
Caroline
***ALL SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW ARE HIDDEN***

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is not a scary story or even all that creepy. What it is instead, without a doubt, is an unsettling tale of devolution. Here is how an exceedingly strange, publicly shunned family living in an old house (view spoiler)
...more
Sam
Jan 02, 2009 Sam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
Like chainsmokers and alcoholics, most reading addicts - the sort of people who are unable to leave the house, ride the bus, or take a bath without a book in their hand - started the habit early in life. Mention Maniac Magee around me, for instance, and watch me tear up. You could chalk this up to nostalgia, I guess, but I think there's something else going on here; the really great children's books (young adult books?), or the really great books that are about children strike at the heart of so ...more
Rowena
Mar 05, 2013 Rowena rated it really liked it
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
A Chronicle of the Failed Attempts to Adapt Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle into a Motion Picture

Despite being put into production for film adaptation by several prestigious and very capable directors, Shirley Jackson's wonderfully dark masterpiece We Have Always Lived in the Castle has yet to be successfully transformed into film. Each attempt has ended in failure, often marked by death or career ruin or mysterious disappearances.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Jackson'
...more
Algernon
May 05, 2015 Algernon rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015

The most effective horror stories for me are not the ones about vampires or werewolves or even about demented guys chasing you with chainsaws. No, what really disturbs me are the histories without minimal supernatural elements, where the danger comes from the regular people around you, from neighbors and relatives and strangers knocking at your door after midnight. I used to give as typical example Connie Willis and her "Winds of Marble Arch", an evocation of the atrocities of the Blitz in Londo
...more
Bark's Book Nonsense
I listened to this classic Shirley Jackson story in its unabridged audiobook format and the narrator did a terrific job bringing the story of Merricat and the remaining members of her family to life, her voice drips with atmosphere of the gothic drama. If you’re an audiobook fan and appreciate a dread-filled slightly creepy family drama I highly recommend checking this one out. I downloaded my copy from local library via Overdrive.

I don’t want to give too much away because this is one of those c
...more
Jill
Aug 07, 2012 Jill rated it liked it
Recommended to Jill by: Kinga
Shelves: kinga-forced-me

2.5 stars

Usually I'm not at a loss for words in a review....

My friend Kinga decided it would be great fun if we recommended a favourite book to each other.

Despite the fact we don't have a lot of books in common I love reading Kinga's reviews regardless of the genre. She has quite the way with words and I think she's the coolest person, which is why I forgive her so easily for inflicting this weird little number on me.

And I warn you beforehand that I will be using the word weird and synonyms
...more
❀Julie
I started out reading this but quickly switched to the audio version which I highly recommend. The narrator’s voice made this very strange, twisted, whimsical and haunting story come alive. Her whisper-like tone added much emphasis to the spooky and gothic atmosphere. It is probably best going in unknowing, but the eerie looking cover gives hints at the darkness and creepiness of the story, that was at times humorous and always engaging. It contains some of the most interesting and eccentric cha ...more
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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.” 393 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.” 177 likes
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