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We Have Always Lived in the Castle

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  86,884 ratings  ·  10,523 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition (US/CAN), 146 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 1962)
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4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  86,884 ratings  ·  10,523 reviews

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Nov 02, 2013 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
Bill  Kerwin
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, gothic

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
Miranda Reads
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
What you think you know, you don't

Several years ago, someone poisoned the sugar bowl at the last Blackwood family dinner, resulting in the death of nearly every family member.

Only the two sisters (Merricat and Constance) and their ailing uncle (Julian) remain on the secluded estate but they are not the same as they once were.

Since that fateful day, each remaining member has become... slightly unhinged... much to the gossiping villagers horror and delight.

Merricat has a wistful, gentle insanity
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf 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
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My favorite Shirley Jackson novel. A masterpiece of unreliable narration and of the eerie relationship between childishness and horror.

I'm now re-reading this for a December group read, so I thought I'd update this review as I go.

A lot has already been written about the masterful opening paragraph of this book, so I'll focus instead on the opening chapter. It basically involves the narrator, Merricat, walking into town to do some shopping. Sounds boring? It's anything but that. Shirley Jackson u
Navidad Thélamour
“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," wheth
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.
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A.K.A.: 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.
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
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I hate you, Shirley Jackson.


I mean, I know you're dead and all, but still. . .

I want to drive to your haunted house in Vermont and throw rocks at your windows.

I want to smash every pumpkin, carved, by your front door.

I want to hold a séance in your bedroom to summon your spirit, then I want to pull those ugly ass bobby pins from your hair, rip those ugly ass dated glasses off your nose and pull that ugly ass cable knit sweater over your face.

And then. . . I think I want to make out
Jan 19, 2015 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
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
Edward Lorn
Oct 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
High Gothic Art

Hawthorne, Poe, Lovecraft, and even James: Jackson is in their company when it comes to the Gothic genre. She writes in noir et blanc; every word is necessary; the context is revealed at just the right continuous pace; and there is plenty to reveal. No gimmicks, no spiritualist allusions, no unlikely situations: Jackson puts later writers like Stephen King to shame with her talent and wit.

Someone is a homicidal maniac, but which of the Blackwood sisters is it? The traumatized and
Paul Bryant
Oct 09, 2009 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
Raeleen Lemay
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
good stuff.

(review to come)
Dec 17, 2012 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
Apr 20, 2013 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
David Schaafsma
9/17/18: Third read for my Fall 2018 YA course, and what has emerged as one of my favorite books of all time. This time I noticed all the food references more than ever. And loved the strange lyricism of Merricat's deft observations. Are Merricat and Constance really happy in their life in the castle, and should we just leave them alone with their choices of isolation, or are they cases of arrested development, of stasis, of the opposite of "coming-of-age" and maturation that we expect in a YA n ...more
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-shelf, horror
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
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: buddy-reads
Shirley Jackson was always a unique writer, with seeming innocuous stories which have an uneasy undercurrent of rage and craziness bubbling beneath the surface.

I’m definitely down with that. When I was a teacher, one of my favorite Jackson stories to teach was “Charles” rather than “The Lottery”. Both stories percolate (“Charles” is meant to be funny in a Dennis the Menace runs amok kind of way) until the big reveals at the end. Zigging when you thought she would zag – Twilight Zone for the lit
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A creepy little tale from a bullied psychopaths point of view. Stars rounded up from three on account of the villagers' choices before and after the main event.
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
Jan 25, 2012 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
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 2018, american, horror
"Our house was a castle, turreted and open to the sky."
- Shirley Jackson, We have Always Lived in the Castle.


This is my second Shirley Jackson in two days. I'm running full-speed into Halloween I guess. This year, as I mentioned in my previous review, I wanted to read something literary, but scary. Lucky for me, Penguin's Deluxe Classics set has two nice editions of Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle and 'The Haunting of Hill House".

Having now read both, I'm not sure which I like the mo
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.

A strange tale about two social outcasts, We Have Always Lived in the Castle follows a pair of wealthy orphaned sisters, Constance and Merricat Blackwood, as they try to defend themselves and their family estate from hostile villagers and a scheming cousin looking to steal their fortune. The novel is told from the perspective of the 18-year-old Merricat, who routinely indulges in murderous fantasies and wishes to p
Simona Bartolotta
REREAD 13.03.2019
I have finally tested the theory that the beauty of We Have Always Lived in the Castle increases with each re-reading. Shirley Jackson crafted a simply perfect work of pure art.


“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
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
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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
“A pretty sight, a lady with a book.” 626 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.” 294 likes
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