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We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)

by Shirley Jackson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,6523261,306 (4.08)708
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.
Recently added byJoan_Barton, AngelWitch, Arina40, private library, idratherbeinflux, JuliW, sprainedbrain
Legacy LibrariesTim Spalding, Ralph Ellison
  1. 151
    Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (teelgee)
  2. 101
    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. 30
    A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay (sturlington)
    sturlington: Sisters named Merry. Tremblay was clearly influenced strongly by Jackson.
  4. 20
    Who was Changed and Who was Dead by Barbara Comyns (laytonwoman3rd)
  5. 20
    The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (sturlington)
  6. 43
    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.
  7. 11
    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
  8. 22
    The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (lahochstetler)
  9. 11
    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)
  10. 23
    The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley (kraaivrouw)
  11. 01
    Goblin by Ever Dundas (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Similar tone (and Dundas credits Jackson in the book's afterword).
  12. 01
    The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor (passion4reading)
    passion4reading: Though set within completely different landscapes, situations and time periods, each novel has the central theme of an outsider intruding upon an isolated close-knit family group, with disastrous consequences.
  13. 01
    Heartstones by Ruth Rendell (isabelx)
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English (318)  Italian (3)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (324)
Showing 1-5 of 318 (next | show all)
Constance, Mary Katherine and Uncle Julian all live in Blackwood House. The house and all the land owned by the family are enclosed by fences and a locked gate keeps the local villagers out. Years before, the other members of the family died from poisoning and Constance was put on trial for their deaths. She was acquitted, and the three have lived shut up in the old house ever since. Occasionally Mary Katherine, or Merricat as her sister calls her, goes to town to buy food and supplies. The villagers don't like them. Kids taunt her with catcalls. Adults make comments about poison and murder. They are shunned. Merricat doesn't really care....she spends her days in the woods and wants everything kept the same. Her parents things where they belong. Everything in the house where it belongs. Nothing changed. Then cousin Charles arrives. Merricat knows he's up to something....he isn't to be trusted. And he brings change. What can she do to make him just go away?

This story is twisted, strange and delightfully horrifying. Shirley Jackson's writing is subtle. Everything is there....but the horrific truths build slowly in the background. And just when you think you know what's going to happen....the tale takes an unexpected turn in the other direction. I had to read the ending of this book twice to let it all sink in. The story is perfectly written and ends just as strangely as it begins.

Every town has a house with a story....a place or people that are avoided because of a tragedy, crime or whatever gossip fits the local tale. In this particular village, it's Blackwood House. The gossip and truth slowly merge by the end, and the ending is perfect.

I'm so glad I finally read this book! It's a chilling and strange tale....great read!
( )
  JuliW | Nov 22, 2020 |
Like many, my introduction to Shirley Jackson was reading the short story The Lottery in school many years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed the shock of The Lottery and always wanted to read more, so this year I finally got around to We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I have always enjoyed quirky characters and that is almost all you find in this novel. My initial thought was these people are so bizarre that I would never expect to meet them in real life. But then on reflection I realized that some people probably think I am just as quirky.

Constance, Merricat and Uncle Julian reminded me a bit of the characters in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, twisted, just not as grotesque a manner. Shirley Jackson is unique in how she tells these characters’ story while getting you as the reader to look in the wrong direction. Oh, there are plenty of hints where to look for the truth, but somehow you are encouraged to ignore the hints at the same time they are being offered up. The characters are just so delightful you don’t really want to think badly about anyone.

Well, I finally read some Shirley Jackson. I see more in my future. ( )
  afkendrick | Oct 24, 2020 |
When a character in a book is all ga-ga over a real book, I take notice. That was the case here. Libby Strout from Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven clung to this book like a security blanket. I can see some of the similarities to being trapped by public opinion. But Castle is creepy -- Shirley Jackson came up with The Lottery after all before Hunger Games was even a dust mote of an idea. The Blackwood family has long been eschewed by the village and town due to their hoity-totiy ways and also the quadruple murder that occurred under their roof. All that's left of the family is 18-year old Mary Katherine, 28 year old Constance and ancient, ailing Uncle Julian. Mary Katherine (Merricat) is feral -- living in the woods part time and more at home there than in the company of people. Constance is a recluse, so Mary Katherine is their public face and runs the errands, accompanied by her dark, hateful thoughts, while Constance tends to a prodigious garden and Uncle Julian dodders around in the past with his newspaper articles trying to piece together the family history as it pertains to the mysterious deaths 8 years prior. Constance was charged but acquitted of poisoning her mother, father, brother and aunt with arsenic in the sugar bowl which they all sprinkled on their blackberries. The town believes in guilt regardless of the acquittal and many nursery rhymes and rumors swirl around the Blackwood house, property and people. When a distant cousin, Charles Blackwood arrives change begins to stir and Merricat is supremely unhappy. He courts Constance, though only for the money which is considerable and begins to make her doubt the way she has cared for her sister and uncle -- and begins to hint that they should both be sent away. Merricat intervenes in a way that is harmful to all, but she is able to retain her beloved sister and their bizarre way of life. Chilling and disturbing, though a quick read. ( )
  CarrieWuj | Oct 24, 2020 |
Giving my least favorite author a second chance, apparently, was a mistake. I just... Don't understand. Is it supposed to be scary? It's not. Not in the slightest. It's just weird and not in a good way. ( )
  margaretkwon | Oct 24, 2020 |
This was unbelievably brilliant, I literally couldn't put it down. A new favourite read ❤️ ( )
  MandaTheStrange | Oct 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 318 (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 (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jackson, Shirleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bliss, HarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dunne, BernadetteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Franzén, TorkelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lethem, JonathanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oates, Joyce CarolAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ott, ThomasCover artistsecondary 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. 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.
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?
Our house was a castle, turreted and open to the sky.
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Wikipedia in English


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.

No library descriptions found.

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
Charles strives to drive the
lioness from her den, but
Merricat has claws.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141191457, 0141194995

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