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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 (742 )
5 star
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3 star
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3.8 (631 )
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Story
4.2 (630 )
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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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  •  
    Tricia A. Hanover, VA 02-04-15
    Tricia A. Hanover, VA 02-04-15
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    90
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Dry, slow, plodding"
    What would have made We Have Always Lived in the Castle better?

    The story unfolds far too slowly to be interesting. I needed to have more access to the thoughts of the secondary characters to see them as more than furniture to the protagonist.


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

    It has not.


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

    The protagonist is clearly a disturbed person and we do see this from the very start. There is no sense of motion, time passing or story development in this book; events happen in the most linear, two dimensional way.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    It does paint a portrait of a disturbed mind that is mildly interesting.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gerry 01-14-15
    Gerry 01-14-15 Member Since 2013

    gerrymor Auburn, AL My favorites are books read by the authors. Janis Ian is superb.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
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    75
    11
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    3
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    Story
    "Memories"

    Just as good now as it was when it first came out. Thank you for the pleasure of an old friend revisited.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    magginses 01-05-15
    magginses 01-05-15 Member Since 2013
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Falters a bit towards end"

    This was a wonderful performance, and the story is creepy in a nice subtle way. However I felt it became a bit rambling towards the end and dragged a bit because of this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MARYANNE EDEN, UT, United States 12-04-14
    MARYANNE EDEN, UT, United States 12-04-14 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
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    10
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    Story
    "So Bummed Out"

    Tells the story of eccentrics who survived the family poisoning. Your main character is delusional, her sister is down trodden and the surviving uncle is obsessed with documenting what happened the day of the poisoning. It is a depressing book and ends with no redemption or solutions. It totally bummed me out.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    shmelo 12-01-14
    shmelo 12-01-14

    Shmelo

    ratings
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    3
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Good Story - HORRIBLE sound quality"
    What disappointed you about We Have Always Lived in the Castle?

    There is a noticeable buzzing/distortion through the whole book. Horribly distracting.


    What didn’t you like about Bernadette Dunne’s performance?

    Her performance was ok, it was the HORRIBLE SOUND QUALITY


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca Seattle, WA, United States 11-15-14
    Rebecca Seattle, WA, United States 11-15-14 Member Since 2014

    Hello, I'm a Seattle native, former ESL teacher and Spanish interpreter. I'm into photography, mycology, nature, camping, art and music.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    104
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    Story
    "Old fashioned creepy story"

    This book was originally published in the early 60's and in that context this is a really well written Twilight Zone, Amazing Tales sort of scary story.
    I listened to it all the way through in one afternoon and I really enjoyed it. The narrator stays out of the way of story without dazzling.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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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    30
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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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 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    Overall
    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
    HELPFUL VOTES
    247
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    189
    184
    FOLLOWERS
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    7
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    Performance
    Story
    "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
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