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We Have Always Lived in the Castle

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  56,157 Ratings  ·  7,123 Reviews
Alone since four members of the family died of arsenic poisoning, Merricat, Constance and Julian Blackwood spend their days in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears.
Hardcover, 214 pages
Published June 5th 1984 by Turtleback Books (first published 1962)
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Nataliya
Nov 02, 2013 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 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
Melissa ♥ Dog Lover ♥ Martin
You will be wondering about that sugar bowl, I imagine. Is it still in use? You are wondering; has it been cleaned? You may very well ask; was it thoroughly washed?




This book is looney tune. I'm not even sure about some things that happened.



One of my GR friends needs to message me so we can discuss some things on this book. (Of course no one will read this so it's a mute point)

So Constance, Merricat, and Uncle Julian live in the home together with all of their land enclosed. The rest of the f
...more
s.penkevich
Dec 28, 2015 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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Fabian
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A.K.A.: "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.
Madeline
Jan 19, 2015 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
Luffy
This is one to cherish. I thought that I've seen everything there is to read. We Have Always Lived in the Castle almost...almost! surprised me. Here is the ultimate dysfunctional family. The Simpsons eat your heart out. Merricat has mostly her elder sister Constance to live with.

Death by arsenic is a painful way to die. I've been fascinated by arsenic ever since I read The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It used to be available at the chemist and apparently you had to sign your name to get it. Anyw
...more
Raeleen Lemay
good stuff.

(review to come)
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
Jason
Dec 17, 2012 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
Apr 20, 2013 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
Paul Bryant
Oct 09, 2009 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
Kinga
Jan 25, 2012 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
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.
Bradley
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, 2017-shelf
Such a classic.

Even when we know what's going on and why it's happening, it's so easy to fall into the character and root for her. I can't stand the things that people put her through, from the town, to Charles, or even to her own parents. (Although to be sure, we only get a tiny little glance at her parents from a few repeated lines.)

When reading this I was thinking of Paul Tremblay's Head Full of Ghosts for the murder (some say accident) of most of the family at dinner, but of course, this wa
...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
Simona Bartolotta
“I told you that you would like it on the moon.”

This is one of those books that make me become intolerant. Sounds awful, doesn't it? But please don't flee. I'll explain.
What I mean to say is that We Have Always Lived in the Castle is one of those books that make me think, What's wrong with the people who didn't adore it to pieces? And if you know me just a little bit, you know that I've never said such a thing or anything similar to anyone, ever, and that I never will because that's just the wa
...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 u ...more
Althea Ann
Sep 26, 2015 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
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
David Schaafsma
I read this in March of this year for a course I was teaching and read it again for my fall YA course.

A memorable tale of gothic suspense by Jackson, the author of the much anthologized, exquisitely perverse short story, “The Lottery" (1948). Castle is Jackson’s last book, often described as her masterpiece, featuring two of the best characters in American literature, maybe especially Mary Katherine, or Merricat, who says things like this:

“On the moon we wore feathers in our hair, and rubies o
...more
Becca
Mar 05, 2008 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
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
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
Michael
Nov 02, 2013 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
Ilenia Zodiaco
Perché nessuno si è preso la briga di parlarmi prima di Shirley Jackson? A fine lettura ho pensato: beh, l'ho adorato ma in fondo è "solo" una di quelle storie al limite tra racconti del terrore e giallo. Ma in realtà no. è una narrazione intessuta con meticolosità e maestria, un fine racconto psicologico sul Male, su una follia e un delirio sociopatico. Al limite tra il fiabesco e la stregoneria. Non voglio dirvi troppo perché è un romanzo da spolpare, da divorare pezzo per pezzo. Non riusciret ...more
Tiffany PSquared
❝The people of the village have always hated us.❞

Quick summary: Agoraphobics with secrets.

What I Liked:
-You automatically know that your narrator is unreliable. You know that you're about to see the world through a lens that is slightly skewed and that makes for the best kind of off-center story.
-Merricat, Constance, and Uncle Julian are who they are. They exist in a bubble - of time, of space, of circumstance - and they are committed to that existence.
- The story developed about as much as it
...more
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  • The Little Stranger
  • Houdini Heart
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  • Collected Ghost Stories
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  • Don't Look Now: Selected Stories
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  • Gothic Tales
  • The Ghost Writer
  • Isis (Harrow House, #0.25)
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  • October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween
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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...
“A pretty sight, a lady with a book.” 531 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.” 236 likes
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