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We Have Always Lived in the Castle
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message 1: by Randolph, Randy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Randolph (us227381) | 162 comments Here is a thread for Shirley Jackson’s lesser known opus.


Marie-Therese (mariethrse) | 550 comments Is this the April 2018 read?


message 3: by Randolph, Randy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Randolph (us227381) | 162 comments Yep


Jen from Quebec :0) (muppetbaby99) | 5 comments I am about 47% into the book already and it is good, but not at ALL what I was expecting...--Jen from Quebec :0)


Ronald (rpdwyer) | 557 comments I plan to comment on the book on the weekends of April 2018.


Ronald (rpdwyer) | 557 comments In some ways it is like a mystery novel, in other ways like a Gothic novel.

I can't help but think that Shirley Jackson drew upon her life in writing this novel. The theme of persecution of people who exhibit "otherness" is one of the themes in Shirley Jackson's fiction.

Merricat Blackwood, her elder sister Constance, and their ailing Uncle Julian live in a large house in isolation from the nearby village.

The events of the past are revealed, including what happened to the remainder of the Blackwood family. Years ago, Blackwood family members were murdered – poisoned with arsenic, which was mixed into the family's sugar bowl and sprinkled onto blackberries at dinner. Julian, though poisoned, had survived. Constance, who did not put sugar on her berries, was arrested for, and eventually acquitted of, the crime. Merricat was not at dinner, having been sent to bed without dinner as punishment.

Merricat walks into the village twice a week and carrying home groceries and library books, where she is faced directly with the hostility of the villagers. Children taunt with verse. A character says that he did work on the Blackwood house but didn't get paid for it.

My Kindle says that I'm 31 percent done with the book.


message 7: by David (new)

David A. A. | 6 comments We have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) is a novel about the three wealthy survivors of a mass poisoning. Mary Catherine (Merricat), Constance (who is thought to have laced the blackberries with arsenic) and Uncle Julian, who has not been the same since the incident and lives “in the gorgeous memory of the crime”, writing copious macabre notes on it, and who is in case you hadn’t guessed, completely demented. In this tragic novel the house is the centre of security for the protagonists and its final denouement is a moving climax, yet even then Merricat and Constance can’t escape. The story is told in the first person, from the point of view of the eighteen year old Merricat. But she is a capricious individual, she is “ – one of literature’s most unreliable narrators; hungry for revenge, perversely imaginative, suspicious of all around here, as patient and cunning as her beloved cat Jonas, possessed of a heart like one of Jupiter’s moons – forever frozen yet magma-hot within”, says Jack Womack in his review published in Horror: Another 100 Best Books (2005). With its themes of persecution, isolation and psychological disturbance, it has threads in common with both her previous novels and these three books of modern American Gothic form a triumvirate of great worth in the genre of weird fiction.


Ronald (rpdwyer) | 557 comments Merricat is a practionter of magic, such as nailing a book to a tree and choosing three words for 'protection'. After discovering that the book has fallen down, Merricat becomes convinced that danger is imminent. Before she can warn Constance, their estranged cousin, Charles, appears for a visit.

Charles quickly befriends Constance, insinuating himself into her confidence. Charles is aware of Merricat's hostility. He makes many references to the money the sisters keep locked in their father's safe. Merricat perceives Charles as a threat, calling him a demon and a ghost. Uncle Julian dislikes Charles, calling Charles 'dishonest' and a 'bastard.'

62 percent done says my ereader.


Ronald (rpdwyer) | 557 comments One night before dinner, Merricat, in her anger against Charles, pushes Charles' still-smoldering pipe into a wastebasket filled with newspapers. The pipe sets fire to the family home. Villagers observe the fire. There is still resentment from the villagers. One character hopes that the entire house burn down. Firemen arrive to put out the fire. Once it's out, villagers begin throwing rocks at the windows, smashing them and surging into the house to destroy whatever they can. Merciat and Constance are verbally taunted. Merricat and Constance, driven outdoors, are encircled by some of the villagers who seem on the verge of attacking them. Merricat and Constance flee for safety into the woods. In the course of the fire, Julian dies of what is implied to be a heart attack, and Charles attempts to take the family safe. Merricat and Constance shelter for the night in a hideaway that Merricat created some time ago. Constance confesses for the first time that she always knew Merricat poisoned the family. Merricat readily admits to the deed.

It seems that Merricat has above average intelligence, having the foresight of creating an hideaway. She probably got ideas about arsenic poisoning from her library books.

My Kindle says I'm 77 percent done with the book.


Ronald (rpdwyer) | 557 comments Upon returning to their ruined home, Constance and Merricat proceed to check what was damaged and what is useable. Damage was done by the fire and by the villagers. Some food apparently got stolen, but not the books.

I can't help but think that was a swipe by the author, Shirley Jackson, at her neighbors.

I was also reminded of an event years ago. There was a used bookstore in my neighborhood which was broken into after it was closed. An attempt was made for the cash register, but it was already empty. None of the books were stolen.

Windows of the house are boarded up, barricades are set up, and they lock the door. Some people knock on the door and attempt communication with Constance and Merricat, but they don't respond.

Some villagers, awakening to a sense of guilt, begin to leave food on their doorstep. Charles returns once to try to renew his acquaintance with Constance, but she now knows his real purpose is to steal the money in the house and ignores him. In this part of the novel, the two sisters say loopy things, in my opinion. The two sisters choose to remain alone and unseen by the rest of the world.

I plan to put up 4 star review in a few days.


message 11: by RJ - Slayer of Trolls (last edited May 07, 2018 09:21AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) I just finished this one. What a terrific book! The story didn't go the way I thought it would. I thought Merricat would turn out to be a witch but instead she and her remaining family turn out to be harmless people (well, except for the whole "poisoning" thing) living their own lives and wanting to remain secluded and undisturbed. Jonathan Lethem wrote an introduction to my edition which is well worth reading in which he points out that Jackson was venting her own feelings of persecution at the small town in Vermont where she lived. This is the second of Jackson's books I have read after The Haunting of Hill House and it makes me want to read more by her.


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