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We Have Always Lived in the Castle by…

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (original 1962; edition 2009)

by Shirley Jackson

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3,6372181,451 (4.06)580
Title:We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Authors:Shirley Jackson
Info:Penguin Classics (2009), Mass Market Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:fiction, agoraphobia, arsenic, poison, sisters, death, murder, madness, insanity, USA, 1960s, gothic, arson, food, gardening, vandalism, fire, eccentricity, cat, moon, magic, witchcraft, spice cookies, blackberries, horror, macabre, house, mental illness, small town America, cousin, psychopath, psychological, recluse, secrets, gingerbread, uncle, sugar, mushrooms, dresden, curtains, wheelchair, mob, OCD, talismans, safeguards, marbles, silver dollars, preserves, pickles, jam, cafe, village, lettuce

Work details

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (1962)

  1. 141
    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (teelgee)
  2. 70
    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. 20
    A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay (sturlington)
    sturlington: Sisters named Merry. Tremblay was clearly influenced strongly by Jackson.
  4. 10
    Who was Changed and Who was Dead by Barbara Comyns (laytonwoman3rd)
  5. 10
    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
  6. 21
    The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (lahochstetler)
  7. 32
    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.
  8. 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)
  9. 22
    The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley (kraaivrouw)
  10. 00
    Heartstones by Ruth Rendell (isabelx)
1960s (178)

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» See also 580 mentions

English (214)  Italian (3)  French (1)  All (218)
Showing 1-5 of 214 (next | show all)
A plausible psychopathology and traumatic response to escalating isolation. Shows how orderly the mind seeks to make the world when food, clothing, and shelter come under threat. Jackson makes it hard to totally spend the sympathy budget on the Blackwood sisters. ( )
  albertgoldfain | Jun 17, 2017 |
Oh dear, I appear to be among the minority who didn't love this book! I found it okay really, it was easy to read and weird. And I am left feeling a little dissatisfied unfortunately. Like it kind of just ended, all of a sudden and although I didn't love it, I kind of wanted more... ( )
  Nataliec7 | Jun 17, 2017 |
This was an odd story about an odd family and how the people of the town treat their oddness. Mary Catherine (Merricat) Blackwood lives with her aunt, Constance, and her invalid Uncle Julian in a large house outside a small town. Some years earlier, Merricat's parents and other family members died of arsenic poisoning. Constance was the only one not poisoned because she did not use sugar on her berries, Julian survived the poison, and Merricat had been sent to bed without dinner. Constance was charged with the murders. Now the three live isolated lives. Julian is wheelchair-bound and Constance does not venture farther than her garden. Merricat is the only one to go to town for shopping, enduring the taunts and harassment of the village folk. A distant cousin tries to muscle his way into the tight little groups much to Merricat's dismay.

After a fire destroys half of the house followed by destruction caused by nasty villagers, Julian is found dead, apparently of a heart attack. Merricat and Constance close the remaining livable parts of the house and hide from the cousin and villagers who try to make amends.

This was a creepy story of the dynamics of a small town which had long lived with and probably were jealous of a wealthy family who lived on a large estate. After they went beyond the verbal harassment and physically attacked the house and the inhabitants, they immediately felt bad and tried to make up for their bad behavior. It was, however, too late. ( )
  mamzel | May 28, 2017 |
Mary Katherine (Merricat) and her sister Constance live in an old house with their Uncle Julian, isolated from the nearby village where they are ostracized. They are the sole survivors of a family tragedy which occurred in the recent past.

The book was atmospheric enough--Merricat's strangeness and wildness (she is the narrator, and is seemingly unaware that her weirdness and the family isolation is anything but normal), Constance's obsession with cooking, gardening and domestic-duties, Uncle Julian's forgetfulness as he goes over family history again and again, the crude and threatening villagers are very well conveyed. Into this milieu an outsider, "Cousin" Carl, intrudes with tragic consequences.

This was a good read, well-written but the reveal of the "big secret" and the climactic events with the villagers were easily foreseen. The book may be best read as a psychological study of mob violence, rather than as a horror story. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 19, 2017 |
Weaponized boredom. ( )
  Carnophile | Apr 2, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 214 (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 (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shirley Jacksonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bliss, HarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dunne, BernadetteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Franzén, TorkelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oates, Joyce CarolAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pareschi, MonicaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Serra, Roseanne J.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Pascal Covici
First words
My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood.
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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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.
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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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141191457, 0141194995

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