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We Have Always Lived in the Castle | [Shirley Jackson]

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Six years after four family members died of arsenic poisoning, the three remaining Blackwoods—elder, agoraphobic sister Constance; wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian; and 18-year-old Mary Katherine, or, Merricat—live together in pleasant isolation. Merricat has developed an idiosyncratic system of rules and protective magic to guard the estate against intrusions from hostile villagers. But one day a stranger arrives—cousin Charles, with his eye on the Blackwood fortune.
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Publisher's Summary

Six years after four family members died of arsenic poisoning, the three remaining Blackwoods—elder, agoraphobic sister Constance; wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian; and 18-year-old Mary Katherine, or, Merricat—live together in pleasant isolation. Merricat has developed an idiosyncratic system of rules and protective magic to guard the estate against intrusions from hostile villagers. But one day a stranger arrives—cousin Charles, with his eye on the Blackwood fortune—and manages to penetrate into their carefully shielded lives. Unable to drive him away by either polite or occult means, Merricat adopts more desperate methods, resulting in crisis, tragedy, and the revelation of a terrible secret.

©1962 Shirley Jackson (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“At certain moments, quietly, in quick, subtle transitions of tone, Miss Jackson can summon up stark terror, make your blood chill and your scalp prickle....To all the classic paraphernalia of the spook story, she adds a touch of Freud….” (New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (468 )
5 star
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Overall
3.9 (381 )
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Story
4.3 (379 )
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
 (7)
Performance
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  •  
    Vanessa 04-09-14
    Vanessa 04-09-14 Member Since 2011

    V

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Sorry, but No"
    Any additional comments?

    I know this is a classic, and I really wanted to like it based on other works by Shirley Jackson, but I just can't. It's such a slow start, and the narrator (the character, not the voice actor) is so unreliable that I could not sustain my interest in her story. Dull.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    cat's pajamas 07-31-12 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Skillful Presentation of Contemporary "Scary" Tale"
    If you could sum up We Have Always Lived in the Castle in three words, what would they be?

    Flipside Fairy Tale


    What did you like best about this story?

    Shirley Jackson is an amazing yarn-spinner - her deliberate slow display of telling details and wonderful way of evoking an atmosphere is unparalleled.


    Which character ??? as performed by Bernadette Dunne ??? was your favorite?

    Merricat - the first person narrator of the story - Bernadette Dunne does an amazing job!


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No - I wanted to stretch out the enjoyment!


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 09-10-11
    David 09-10-11 Member Since 2010

    Indiscriminate Reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A savory bit of creepilicousness"

    Mary Katherine ("Merricat") and Constance Blackwood live with their wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian in their once-grand family home. The wealthy Blackwoods have always been ostracized by the local townspeople, but when almost the entire Blackwood clan is wiped out by arsenic poisoning, the survivors become outcasts, hated and shunned. Constance was tried for the crime but acquitted; now she hides in her home, unable to face the accusing eyes and jeers of the outside world.

    The story is narrated from the viewpoint of Mary Katherine, whose life is full of strange rituals and talking to her cat, Jonas. She is fascinated with poisonous herbs, she fantasizes about living on the moon, and she wants most of all to live with her sister Constance and never see anyone else. She creates magic words, buries things in the yard, and uses other spell-like rituals to "protect" the house and her sister, and since Merricat is the one telling the story, it's not clear whether she's really crazy or not.

    The story unfolds slowly until you have a pretty good idea of what really happened before it is revealed, but the brooding, sinister tone of this short novel is creepy and dark and gothic, and by the end, it's not clear who the real villains are: the person who murdered an entire family, the greedy cousin who shows up looking for the supposed fortune hidden in the house, or the envious, grudging, small-minded villagers who feign concern and hospitality while mocking the Blackwood girls behind their backs.

    Not t your typical horror story; all the deaths have already happened before the book begins, and if you are looking for elements of the supernatural, you will have to look hard. This is what you might call an American psychological thriller, where the horror is what is very subtly revealed about Merricat and Constance and the Blackwood family, and the nature of ordinary people in ordinary small towns.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jesse CHICAGO, IL, United States 07-21-11
    Jesse CHICAGO, IL, United States 07-21-11
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    "Haunting, Engaging and Memorable"

    This is an American masterpiece, a classic that has been grossly overlooked in classes across the nation. Shirley Jackson created fiercely real character who will engage, entice and disgust you. Written in the 1960s is is scary how little things have changed. So many classrooms could benefit from this wonderful short novel.

    8 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Montgomery Village, MD, United States 08-13-14
    Laura Montgomery Village, MD, United States 08-13-14 Member Since 2010

    Why ever would I do that?

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    "two stars"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I found this book creepy - but I don't really know what was going on. Two stars instead of one b/c maybe I just wasn't smart enough to figure it out. Put it down. Money down the drain ...


    How could the performance have been better?

    I've read books since and can't put my finger on it, but I do remember I didn't care for the narrator.


    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Santie Sol Waukegan, IL USA 01-22-13
    Santie Sol Waukegan, IL USA 01-22-13 Member Since 2011
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    "didn't get it?"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I just never got the plot or what was going on. It may have been over my head.


    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darryl Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 09-10-12
    Darryl Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 09-10-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Better than Hill House in My opinion"

    This is an excellent creepy story from a young girl's point of view and I thought it was excellent and much better than Hill House which is the one everyone reads. I tell them don't bother with Hill, go with this. It is a bit like the Other by Tom Tryon which I wish would show up some day. Jackson is a good writer and there are a couple more of her's I hope show up too, Sundial, Hangsaman, and maybe they'll be just as good as this.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim GREENVILLE, SC, United States 04-23-12
    Kim GREENVILLE, SC, United States 04-23-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Narrator made this book amazing"

    Classic Shirley Jackson horror, creepy and atmospheric. The narrator was excellent, really brought the book to life.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ann-Marie Gavle, Sweden 09-17-12
    Ann-Marie Gavle, Sweden 09-17-12 Listener Since 2010

    I live in a big house by the Baltic sea in Gävle, Sweden. I am married and have three teenagers and one dog. I read books, buy books and blog about books. If I don´t read I knit, sew or quilt.

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    "Creepy and beautiful"

    It is not at all the horror story I thought it was. It is a creepy, affectionate and beautiful story of insanity, loneliness and hatred. Merricat is one of the most fascinating literary characters I've met. It's very hard not to like her and feel sorry for her and at the same time there is an uncanny feeling about her. A must read!

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ally Napanee, ON, Canada 03-25-12
    Ally Napanee, ON, Canada 03-25-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Loved it!"

    The narrator is totally creepy, and the story is like the Addams Family for grownups. I absolutely loved it. I mean, the "mystery" part is not so much a mystery. I won't spoil it for anyone, but I figured it out relatively quickly, but there was something in the narrative that sort of makes me think you're supposed to. The mystery isn't really the point.

    I love this book, and can see myself listening to it over and over.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
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