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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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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

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

Recently added byrochelle12, private library, kbuxton, portfinks, OJSB, dchaves, Kewlu, gtfernandezm, turbofletch
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English (171)  Italian (2)  French (1)  All languages (174)
Showing 1-5 of 171 (next | show all)
I was looking forward to this since I liked The Haunting of Hill House a lot, and I enjoyed the idea behind the story, but it's got a lot of tedious filler, some painful attempts at humor, and ridiculous (in a bad way) characters and dialogue. ( )
  Michael.Xolotl | Nov 11, 2015 |
We Have Always Lived in the Castle was written by Shirley Jackson whose short story, The Lottery and novel, The Haunting of Hill House are considered to be among the elite within the horror genre. Published in 1962, this novel was her final publication; she died in 1965. I chose THIS audiobook based on a review that placed the novel within the *gothic* genre (one I enjoy). It didn’t take long to happen across the words - spoken by 18-year-old Mary Katherine "Merricat" Blackwood - that set the stage for the transition from *gothic* to horror - "I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita Phalloides, the Death Cap Mushroom." {{{shudder}}}

As the storyline develops, the horror aspect (not gore . . horror) evolves to the point that I found myself stopping - from time to time - to *breathe*! Bernadette Dunne’s incredible skill as a narrator brought life to the characters, chills to the/this listener and perpetuated Joyce Carol Oate’s (2009) statement in The New York Review of Books: “Of the precocious children and adolescents of mid-twentieth-century American fiction — a dazzling lot — 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). At once feral child, sulky adolescent, and Cassandra-like seer, Merricat addresses the reader as an intimate.”

( )
1 vote idajo2 | Nov 3, 2015 |
The old Blackwood house was once home to a large family, until most of them were poisoned one night at dinner. Now there are three of them left: pleasant, domestic Constance, who was acquitted of the murders but can no longer bring herself to leave the house; young Mary Katherine (aka Merricat), much given to magical thinking and wishing people dead; and their old Uncle Julian, who survived ingesting the arsenic, but has never been the same since. The family's relations with the nearby village have never been the same, either, as they are hated, and gawped at, and feared.

It's a weird, weird book. A wonderfully creepy one, too, but it's a kind of creepiness that, well... creeps up on you. It starts out as a gentle sort of creepiness, more intellectual than visceral, but as I reached the last page, I was literally shuddering. What's odd is that I'm not sure entirely why I was shuddering. It feels like there are depths here that my conscious mind only dimly understands. Uncomfortable depths, hinting at uncomfortable realities.

It's pretty darned brilliant. ( )
1 vote bragan | Oct 27, 2015 |
It was certainly unusual. I could almost tell during the entire thing that there was something wrong with Mary Katherine. Both she and Constance suffer from some mental affliction which just made the store that much more terrifying the more I read. I will definitely not be forgetting this story for a long time, nor will I ever think the same of old burnt out houses. ( )
  ElizaKing | Oct 27, 2015 |
So this is like discovering the Rosetta Stone to all the various types of gothic, fantastic, weird, horror fiction I've loved over the years, the key to all of it, the motherlode. My God, Iain Banks transposed this book to western Scotland for his incendiary debut, The Wasp Factory, and realising this is significantly more mindblowing than I expected today to turn out to be. Everyone from King and Straub, Jonathan Carrol, huge chinks of Neil Gaiman's Sandman, they all drank deep from the dark well hidden beneath this slim and sinister volume. Not just story, but voice and atmosphere and amazing subtlety and delicacy of telling, with hidden undercurrents left rippling beneath the surface, rarely to disturb the placid but fragile surface.

Merricat and Constance and Uncle Julian, all that remains of the once-proud and disdainful Blackwood family, live together in their beautiful old house, a life of ritual and routine, defined by food and cleanliness and Julian's illness. Days on which Merricat must venture into the town for food and books are fraught and tense and terrible, for the people of the town hate the surviving Blackwoods almost as much as Merricat hates them. Constance rarely ventures past her vegetable garden Uncle Julian spends much of his time reliving the terrible day when the rest of the family were murdered, while Merricat roams their land ensuring that the locks and totems are intact and keeping the world at bay. But she senses a change coming, and one day Cousin Charles arrives offering friendship and a male presence but with a heavy interest in Father's safe, threatening Merricat's carefully regulated existence.

Joyce Carol Oates has an afterword to this edition that lays bare the themes of the novel, perhaps a bit too well, stripping them of their magic and strangeness with prosaic, but probably accurate, diagnoses. The reader will suspect the truth, or part of it, from the start, but we are so thoroughly on Merricat's side, no matter how damaged and dangerous she may actually be, that it is a shock to see her described as 'evil,' not because it is inaccurate, but because it seems rude and unnecessary. Charles offers a poor and shoddy escape for Constance, but it could have been an escape. Instead she gets this terrifying, fairy-tale happy ending. It is strange and terrible and haunting and beautiful and has marked 20th century fiction indelibly.
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1 vote Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 171 (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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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)

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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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