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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

3.9 (675 )
5 star
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3.8 (570 )
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Story
4.2 (568 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Svetlana PITTSBURGH, PA, United States 11-07-14
    Svetlana PITTSBURGH, PA, United States 11-07-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "An Unreal Reality"
    Which character – as performed by Bernadette Dunne – was your favorite?

    Mary Kat


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

    Yes!


    Any additional comments?

    A bizarre and quirky rendition of a child's/woman's? daydreams and her outlook on reality. Her mind is definitely unstable and her sister isn't altogether there either, but they care for each other deeply and the cruelties of the strangers seem unfair. This story has an eerie quality to it, but it's all presented in a light, delusional atmosphere that doesn't really help with the creepy factor. You find yourself almost agreeing with some of the thoughts the main character has throughout the book. But, like I said, bizarre. I feel like there are a few questions the author purposefully didn't answer in the book, to keep the reading either guessing or formulating their own thoughts, but it would be awesome to have an "extra" section that explains some of the behavior and thoughts of the characters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sheryl 11-05-14
    Sheryl 11-05-14

    Kavetch, CA

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Thought-provoking and sweet - yes!"
    Would you listen to We Have Always Lived in the Castle again? Why?

    I will listen to the book again due to its complex psychological undercurrents. There is so much simmering beneath the surface of this mixed-up and 'sympathetically pathetic' unlikely cast of characters. Jackson presents a tease of information about the two sisters and uncle, the "survivors" of the immediate family. Even though this author does not paint the characters in extensive detail (as one so typically finds in most novels), the void adds to the mysterious and strange impression of this small town family. It entices and allows the reader create their own interpretation and visualization of each brilliantly insane character.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    As much as I truly loved Marricat, her obsessions and paranoia, Constance is delightful since she is a total enigma throughout much of the book. I felt her angst and her guilt and her love for her sister and devotion to her uncle Julian. I am still trying to figure her out. She is the character that made me cry.Honorable mention to Marricat's cat, Jonas - crafty and loyal to a fault. < :-)


    What about Bernadette Dunne’s performance did you like?

    Dunne's voice was spot on to what I imagined from the lead characters, the busybodies and townfolk. She created the invisible link between them that many narrators completely miss. The strangeness and unsettling nature of the Blackwoods shines through in Dunne's voice(s).


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Toward the end of the book, there is a particularly poignant scene between the sisters during a truly dispicable scene that drew a few tears. It caught me totally off-guard and made me say, "brava, Shirley!" On the other hand, the end stanzas sit on the edge of reality, even for this creepy little family. I cannot go into more detail as it will be a spoiler, but it is not so farfetched as to ruin the story. Just go with it, don't dwell on the sisters' actions that seem so unbelievable - to a "normal" person. They are not normal.


    Any additional comments?

    Not having read the book, I had no expectations of horor, or fear (the book was written decades ago-1960s). My recommendation is to give the book the time and thought it deserves. It is not meant to be an in-your-face, obvious, simple thriller or ghost story. As another reviewer stated so well: "weird and disturbing." Sit back and enjoy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kyle 11-05-14
    Kyle 11-05-14 Member Since 2014
    ratings
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    2
    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "Might have been a good story if I wasn’t ruined by"
    What disappointed you about We Have Always Lived in the Castle?

    I put together all the mystery pieces the writer had spread out in the first chapter.


    Has We Have Always Lived in the Castle turned you off from other books in this genre?

    Yes, I realized it would be hard for me to relate or to even understand what the narrators are talking about.


    What does Bernadette Dunne bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    She bring character variety that I am not imaginative enough to create myself.


    What character would you cut from We Have Always Lived in the Castle?

    I would cut excessive descriptions of the inanimate objects. The author spend numerous pages describing details of dishes, dinning sets and other housewares.


    Any additional comments?

    This book was written before my time, a good 20 plus years. The modern day mystery and horror stories have always tried to save the best twist at the end. With acquired knowledge of modern mystery, I figured out all the “mysteries” of this story in the first chapter leaving the rest of the story to me dual, cumbersome, and irritating.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Calliope 07-07-14
    Calliope 07-07-14
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    "How very strange......."

    There's a lot of strangeness in this story - strange characters, strange setting, strange history - and it all mixes up nicely into an unsettling and kind of creepy story. Not frightening, just kind of weird and disturbing. It's clear from the set up that the protagonist is suffering from an undisclosed psychological issue - her words and actions are too juvenile for her actual age - but you never really know if it's always been a factor in her life or if it's secondary to the changes she's gone through since the murder of most of her family by poisoning.......She now lives a mostly secluded life in the old family home with her older agoraphobic sister and her wheelchair-bound uncle who survived the poisoning but with a loss of both mental and physical capabilities. Most of the townspeople blame the older sister for the murders, in spite of her legal acquittal, and so the sisters have reacted to the town's shunning and malevolence by withdrawing further and further into their own lives in seclusion, but managing to be content in their own little world. When a distant cousin comes to try and bully them into allowing him to rule the family home and money, it upsets their isolated fantasy world and causes unexpected changes.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katrin Sweden 07-01-14
    Katrin Sweden 07-01-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Creepy and disturbing but in a good way"
    Would you consider the audio edition of We Have Always Lived in the Castle to be better than the print version?

    Probably, because of the narrator.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Jonas the cat and Merricat. I really liked the relationship between Merricat and Jonas. Even though Merricat obviously is mentally unstable she is a likable character.


    What about Bernadette Dunne’s performance did you like?

    She gave all the caracters their own voice and did a good job at conveying emotions. Her narration of the the village villains was especially chilling.


    Any additional comments?

    After having listened to this book for a while I realized that the character's inner thoughts, feelings and motivations were more interesting than the plot they were wrapped in. Once I shifted my focus to the inner turmoil of the characters I started loving the book.I like the way Shirley Jackson lets the reader piece together what happened, and why.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jaye GREENWICH, CT, United States 06-22-14
    jaye GREENWICH, CT, United States 06-22-14 Member Since 2012

    AUDIBLE MAKES READING POSSIBLE AND EASY FOR ME...I AM VISUALLY IMPAIRED. I WISH THEY HAD ALL THE BOOKS I WANT I WOULD SNAP THEM UP!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "THIS BOOK WAS A WASTE."
    Would you try another book from Shirley Jackson and/or Bernadette Dunne?

    I DOUBT IT. DEPENDS ON THE SUBJECT. I HESITATED BUYING THE BOOK, BUT I BASED MY PURCHASE ON REVIEWS OF OTHER PEOPLE.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    I AM LISTENING TO BITTER ALMONDS ABOUT STELLA NICHOLS THE EXCEDREN KILLER.


    What does Bernadette Dunne bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    SHE WAS NOT BAD. I FIND I LIKE MOST OF THE READERS.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    NO BUT IT MITE BE A GOOD MOVIE FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE -- LIKE MY COUSIN.


    Any additional comments?

    I AM NOT SAYING NOT TO BUY THIS BOOK. BECAUSE A LOT OF PEOPLE LIKED IT. I FOUND THE STORY STRANGE AND THE CHARACTERS UNDERDEVELOPED.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Asenath Waite Boston 10-12-13
    Asenath Waite Boston 10-12-13

    Living is easy with eyes closed... and headphones on.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This is considered the scary? Oh, please."
    Would you try another book from Shirley Jackson and/or Bernadette Dunne?

    Not sure I will. Apparently, I should not have trusted the numerous positive reviews for this one, and will be more cautious if I ever consider her other books. The narrator was ok.


    What could Shirley Jackson have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Well let's see, an unpredictable plot would have been nice, a main character who's age actually fits her childish behavior and thoughts would have seem more realistic, and a creepier atmosphere would have been, well, creepier.


    Have you listened to any of Bernadette Dunne’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    N/A


    Do you think We Have Always Lived in the Castle needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    The ending was clear to me almost from the start, and I kept wishing there would be some cleaver twist revealed in the end. But there was none, and I doubt a sequel could change things.


    Any additional comments?

    I will say Ms. Jackson writes well, and the book does flow. But I HARDLY would call this horror or scary in any way. This is the typical american novel they would make students read in high school and whatnot. It was more of a tragic story, and while I did feel very sad and sorry for the sisters, it was not what I had hoped for, what I was lead to believe by various authors and reviewers.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nandy Ekle Amarillo, TX 04-13-13
    Nandy Ekle Amarillo, TX 04-13-13 Member Since 2013

    I love books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent!"
    If you could sum up We Have Always Lived in the Castle in three words, what would they be?

    Chilling. Superb. Wow.


    Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

    I love this story and Bernadette's reading was fabulous!


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

    No. I wanted it to last as long as possible.


    Any additional comments?

    Very much enjoyed it and I would recommend it to everyone--and I have. :)

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martie Pretoria, South Africa 11-14-12
    Martie Pretoria, South Africa 11-14-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Highly recommended"

    The build-up of the story is great, but the end is rather disappointing. I was waiting for a twist in the tale, which never came, and it ended rather abruptly.

    Having said that - I was glued to my iPod throughout the story. Bernadette Dunne's narration is wonderful. She does not allow your attention to wander. She has different voices for all the characters and she doesn't lose them. Even the men sound like men.

    Well, worth a credit.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bruce Dulles, VA, United States 09-16-12
    Bruce Dulles, VA, United States 09-16-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "If Julia Child wrote an unfinished ghost story..."

    I only hung with the book because of the superb narration and I wanted the payoff. As the novel got closer and closer to the end, I realized there was not going to be any payoff!?!
    The characters Shirley Jackson created kept my interest in spite of their constant obsession with shopping for groceries, preparing food, and eating food. At times the story hints at what supernatural forces are influencing the characters. Frustratingly, Jackson never makes it clear what is actually going-on between the ghostly world and the real world of living humans. There are encounters between the characters which lead the listener to conclude, that within the universe of this story, interaction between ghosts and living humans is part of the normal course of events. Or are all the living humans dead too? We don't know because it's never explained!
    The novel ends abruptly with no substantive explanations to the back story or why the principle characters are in the situation they're in. To add insult to injury, there is NOTHING SCARY about this book... NOTHING!

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
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