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We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)

by Shirley Jackson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,2081841,733 (4.07)534
  1. 131
    Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (teelgee)
  2. 60
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (taz_)
    taz_: I suspect that Iain Banks' "Wasp Factory" character Frank Cauldhame was inspired by Shirley Jackson's Merricat, as these two darkly memorable teenagers share a great many quirks - the totems and protections to secure their respective "fortresses", the obsessive superstitions that govern their daily lives and routines, their isolation and cloistered pathology, their eccentric families and dark secrets. Be warned, though, that "The Wasp Factory" is a far more explicit and grisly tale than the eerily genteel "Castle" and certainly won't appeal to all fans of the latter.… (more)
  3. 10
    Who was Changed and Who was Dead by Barbara Comyns (laytonwoman3rd)
  4. 10
    The Sister by Poppy Adams (sparemethecensor)
    sparemethecensor: Two sisters with a mysterious relationship and dark history together, unreliable narrators, dark, old, rural houses with mysteries of their own... Though the books take different plotlines, they share so many similar elements that people who enjoyed the setting and storytelling of one will likely enjoy the other.… (more)
  5. 21
    The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (lahochstetler)
  6. 00
    The Hill of Dreams by Arthur Machen (Nialle)
    Nialle: Young, emotionally complex, imaginative narrators in isolated situations - have something going on that the reader only glimpses before the big reveal
  7. 11
    The Bird's Nest by Shirley Jackson (sturlington)
  8. 33
    The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (citygirl)
    citygirl: Castle is much darker and Flavia is more adorable than creepy (Merricat is quite creepy), but if you're interested in unusual young protagonists, with a very particular world view, try these.
  9. 00
    Heartstones by Ruth Rendell (isabelx)
  10. 23
    The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley (kraaivrouw)
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» See also 534 mentions

English (180)  Italian (2)  French (1)  All languages (183)
Showing 1-5 of 180 (next | show all)
OOOOooooo, soo spooky! I love everything I've read by Jackson. This might be my favorite so far because it's just so twisted up and dark. It's impossible to figure out who to be scared of and who to align with, and I think the characters feel the exact same way! ( )
  bjoelle5 | Feb 10, 2016 |
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 preserved in Blackwood House for the last six years will be disastrously upset.

This short book is a masterfully crafted, disturbing window into insanity - all the more so because I think that most of us can imagine wanting to eliminate all the things that upset us. We can all relate to wanting to protect those that love us. This writing shows how these urges, for these characters, gradually form a tightening garotte enclosing their lives, drawing them into an increasingly restricted tiny world of denial. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Really enjoyed her writing style. The story itself was spooky fun. ( )
  kmmsb459 | Jan 24, 2016 |
Constance and her younger sister Merricat (Mary Katherine) live in the Blackwood manor with their elderly Uncle Julian. A terrible tragedy occurred 5 years earlier when the sister's parents, their younger brother and Julian's wife died of arsenic poisoning. Constance was accused and acquitted of placing the arsenic in the sugar bowl and when the family had sugar with their berries they were fatally stricken. Julian had consumed a tiny bit of the arsenci and survived but in a weakened and wheelchair bound state. The Blackwood girls have cut themselves off from society but society does not have much use for the murderess and her sister. Cousin Charles insinuates himself into the sister's lives trying to draw Constance back out into the world but also trying to avail himself of the vast fortune he knows is in the house. Merricat is adamant about removing Charles from their lives and takes drastic measures to accomplish his ouster.

I wanted to like this book so much more than I did since it seems to be a favorite of so many Shelfari members but I just thought the sisters were beyond weird. Their loving relationship was nice and the care they took of Uncle Julian was touching. I suppose being the object of society's suspicions and hatreds would make anyone a bit dotty after awhile but it all was a bit extreme. It wasn't bad; just not quite what I expected.
( )
  Ellen_R | Jan 15, 2016 |
3.5 stars
Odd book. This was my first Jackson book. Story was creepy in a way that is hard to explain. Like a dark, twisted, fairy tale. ( )
  JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 180 (next | show all)
Of the precocious children and adolescents of mid-twentieth-century American fiction ... none is more memorable than eighteen-year-old "Merricat" of Shirley Jackson's masterpiece of Gothic suspense We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962).
 

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shirley Jacksonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Franzén, TorkelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pareschi, MonicaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Pascal Covici
First words
My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood.
Quotations
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!
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?
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 my family is dead.
Our house was a castle, turreted and open to the sky.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
The quiet, isolated life of the Blackwoods--eighteen-year-old Merricat; her older sister, Constance, who may have poisoned their parents six years ago; and their wheelchair-bound uncle--is disrupted by the arrival of a cousin pursuing the family fortune.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143039970, Paperback)

Visitors call seldom at Blackwood House. Taking tea at the scene of a multiple poisoning, with a suspected murderess as one's host, is a perilous business. For a start, the talk tends to turn to arsenic. "It happened in this very room, and we still have our dinner in here every night," explains Uncle Julian, continually rehearsing the details of the fatal family meal. "My sister made these this morning," says Merricat, politely proffering a plate of rum cakes, fresh from the poisoner's kitchen. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson's 1962 novel, is full of a macabre and sinister humor, and Merricat herself, its amiable narrator, is one of the great unhinged heroines of literature. "What place would be better for us than this?" she asks, of the neat, secluded realm she shares with her uncle and with her beloved older sister, Constance. "Who wants us, outside? The world is full of terrible people." Merricat has developed an idiosyncratic system of rules and protective magic, burying talismanic objects beneath the family estate, nailing them to trees, ritually revisiting them. She has made "a powerful taut web which never loosened, but held fast to guard us" against the distrust and hostility of neighboring villagers.

Or so she believes. But at last the magic fails. A stranger arrives--cousin Charles, with his eye on the Blackwood fortune. He disturbs the sisters' careful habits, installing himself at the head of the family table, unearthing Merricat's treasures, talking privately to Constance about "normal lives" and "boy friends." Unable to drive him away by either polite or occult means, Merricat adopts more desperate methods. The result is crisis and tragedy, the revelation of a terrible secret, the convergence of the villagers upon the house, and a spectacular unleashing of collective spite.

The sisters are propelled further into seclusion and solipsism, abandoning "time and the orderly pattern of our old days" in favor of an ever-narrowing circuit of ritual and shadow. They have themselves become talismans, to be alternately demonized and propitiated, darkly, with gifts. Jackson's novel emerges less as a study in eccentricity and more--like some of her other fictions--as a powerful critique of the anxious, ruthless processes involved in the maintenance of normality itself. "Poor strangers," says Merricat contentedly at last, studying trespassers from the darkness behind the barricaded Blackwood windows. "They have so much to be afraid of." --Sarah Waters

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:32 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate.

» see all 5 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141191457, 0141194995

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