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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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3,3051921,647 (4.07)544
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. 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. 31
    The Bird's Nest by Shirley Jackson (sturlington)
  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. 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)
  8. 00
    A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay (sturlington)
    sturlington: Sisters named Merry.
  9. 00
    Heartstones by Ruth Rendell (isabelx)
  10. 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.
  11. 23
    The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley (kraaivrouw)

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» See also 544 mentions

English (188)  Italian (2)  French (1)  All languages (191)
Showing 1-5 of 188 (next | show all)
I can't really categorize this book; it doesn't quite fit anywhere. It is entirely itself. It's not really a mystery, there's no true horror, and it's got very minimal suspense. What it does have is an insidious, neck-hair-raising, somehow humorous dread. I guess what I can most compare it to is an Edward Gorey illustration. I liked it very much! ( )
1 vote bibliovermis | Apr 29, 2016 |
Wow... I really loved this. I had read only a brief and vague synopsis prior to reading. I knew it was about two sisters who experienced a family tragedy and were ostracized by their town and neighbors. I knew it was dark, creepy and psychological, but neither a mystery, nor a supernatural story. I was intrigued and hopeful, and this was everything I wanted and more.. I'll be thinking about this story for weeks to come. A fast favorite. ( )
  daniellamaria8 | Apr 9, 2016 |
I was unaware of this fairly well-known title until just recently, but the reviews made me curious, so I took advantage of the fact that I was able to listen to it on audio via Hoopla. Constance & Merricat Blackwood, along with their aging Uncle Julian, live in isolation in their old family mansion. They have become severely agorophobic and for the most part never venture out into the community. One day cousin Charles comes for an extended visit, and things deteriorate from there.

There are many words one could use to describe this book, and it seems lots of readers have both similar & differing thoughts on what exactly Shirley Jackson was trying to convey with this story. It has a Gothic-type feel, but yet is more humorous than a typical Gothic tale. It's odd, it's quirky, it's sort of creepy, and the characters are very eccentric. I still can't quite categorize Merricat (who is the first-person narrator of this story). She is supposed to be 18 years old, but acts much younger, and displays a lot of characteristics reminiscent of Asperger's Syndrome. Or perhaps she's mentally ill. It's difficult to ascertain for sure, and the clues in the story don't particularly make it obvious.

For those who enjoy something a bit out of the ordinary, I'd recommend this. It's not my typical genre and I have mixed feelings about it. But nonetheless, it would make a good discussion book. ( )
1 vote indygo88 | Mar 25, 2016 |
Mary Katherine and Constance are two young adult sisters living in a big old house with their elderly uncle, who is unwell. Mary Katherine is concerned about being safe and being afraid of strangers or the others. Constance is afraid of going out of the house. When cousin Charles comes to visit, tensions run high.

The strange behavior and conversations that the sisters have and their fears kept me interested and curious about what was going on, was it real or in their mind. The ending was a bit of a disappointment as there wasn't much explanation about why they were the way they were. ( )
  gaylebutz | Mar 14, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 188 (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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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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Wikipedia in English


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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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3 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141191457, 0141194995

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