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We Have Always Lived in the Castle: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

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Alternate Cover Edition for ASIN: B004SS1MH0 Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostil Alternate Cover Edition for ASIN: B004SS1MH0 Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.


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Alternate Cover Edition for ASIN: B004SS1MH0 Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostil Alternate Cover Edition for ASIN: B004SS1MH0 Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

30 review for We Have Always Lived in the Castle: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nataliya

    Bizarre, strange, haunting, sinister, disturbing, twisted, foreboding, suffocatingly claustrophobic, leaving you with the ever-growing sense of unease. What else can I say about this book to give it justice? This is a chillingly terrifying story that has nothing to do with the things that go BUMP in the night. No, it's the odd terror that comes when things go BUMP in the mind. And the most terrifying things are those that are left unsaid, that creep up at you from behind the printed lines, just h Bizarre, strange, haunting, sinister, disturbing, twisted, foreboding, suffocatingly claustrophobic, leaving you with the ever-growing sense of unease. What else can I say about this book to give it justice? This is a chillingly terrifying story that has nothing to do with the things that go BUMP in the night. No, it's the odd terror that comes when things go BUMP in the mind. And the most terrifying things are those that are left unsaid, that creep up at you from behind the printed lines, just hinted at and left for your own brain to chillingly realize. “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 our family is dead.” Behind the events of the story is the mystery of the Blackwood family, rich New England landowners who are quite well-aware of their presumed class-snobbish superiority over the inhabitants of the nearby village; the family which is in turn met with distrust, fear and even hatred - not quite unfounded, actually. You see, six years ago half of the members of the Blackwood family were poisoned by arsenic in their food. Three are left: Uncle Julian, left crippled by the poison, hanging on to the remnants of his mind, obsessed with the tragedy of the day of the murder; Constance, an agoraphobiac trapped in the narrow confines of her domestic universe, cooking for the remnants of her family with a strained chirpy attitude - a young woman who was also the cook on the day of the fateful arsenic poisoning and therefore is considered the poisoner in the eyes of the villagers; and Mary Katherine, Merricat, the narrator of the story, now eighteen, who was sent to her room without dinner on the day of the poisoning, who now serves as a link between her diminished and scorned family and the rest of the world. For a careful reader, the identity of the poisoner is really very easy to figure out after the first few pages. The psychological impact is never about the identity, it's about the implications of it. And that's what gives it a real punch. “I am going to put death in all their food and watch them die.” This strange little family survives without ever deviating from their strict routines, remaining shut off from the outside world until one day an unexpected arrival threatens the fragile stability - of the family and of Merricat's mind. And the events that follow lead to the scariest and saddest ending presented in the most chillingly subtle way possible. “I would have liked to come into the grocery some morning and see them all, even the Elberts and the children, lying there crying with the pain of dying. I would help myself to groceries, I thought, stepping over their bodies, taking whatever I fancied from the shelves, and go home, with perhaps a kick for Mrs.Donell while she lay there. I was never sorry when I had thoughts like this; I only wished they would come true." Our narrator, Merricat Blackwood, is not a character you can easily forget. She is written with such skill, with such vividness, with such persuasion that the pages come alive with her bizarre voice of a seemingly adult woman forever trapped in neverending childhood, in the world of twisted magical reality of strange rituals and special objects and strict routine that can never be changed, or else. "On Sunday morning the change was one day nearer. I was resolute about not thinking my three magic words and would not let them into my mind, but the air of change was so strong that there was no avoiding it; change lay over the stairs and the kitchen and the garden like fog. I would not forget my magic words; they were MELODY GLOUCESTER PEGASUS, but I refused to let them into my mind." And the scariest thing of all to me was how more and more enthralling Merricat's voice became with every page, with every minute spent inside her head, until it's hard not to take her side despite all the implications that it carries, despite reason suggesting otherwise, despite knowledge of what's going on. And that's when you realize the magnetic pull Merricat has, holding her little world together in the ways that suit her - little world it may be, but it's wholly her own, steadily holding against anything that can be perceived as a disturbance, an interference, a threat. And the words of her little game in the summerhouse take on a new resonance. “Bow your heads to our beloved Mary Katherine…or you will be dead.” I found this book deeply disturbing in its deceiving simplicity, and scarily engrossing - the book written by an oddball ostracized agoraphobiac obsessed with food and trapped in her own little universe by the last years of her life. Shirley Jackson's Constance and Merricat, securely huddled in their own little corner of the world, not accepted but feared and left alone, the heart of legends and superstitions - was it in a way a cry for help or an unattainable dream? I don't know, and I think I sleep better precisely because I don't know. Unflinching 5 stars and a shudder at the seemingly so innocent of an ending:“Oh Constance, we are so happy.”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    This book is a masterpiece. It is short and spare and written in crystal clear prose, yet so evocative that it is richer in nuance than most good novels twice its size. It is so good I could kick myself for not reading it years ago, yet so mythic I am convinced I have known it always, like a tragic folktale or a chilling childhood dream. And yet, for all its grimness, it is essentially a comedy: darkly, transcendently, funny. The Blackwood sisters—28-year-old Constance and 18-year-old Mary Kathar This book is a masterpiece. It is short and spare and written in crystal clear prose, yet so evocative that it is richer in nuance than most good novels twice its size. It is so good I could kick myself for not reading it years ago, yet so mythic I am convinced I have known it always, like a tragic folktale or a chilling childhood dream. And yet, for all its grimness, it is essentially a comedy: darkly, transcendently, funny. The Blackwood sisters—28-year-old Constance and 18-year-old Mary Katharine—live in a big old house on the outskirts of town. They are fitfully persecuted by the locals, who are convinced one of them is a murderer: their whole family—with the exception of scatterbrained Uncle Julian—was poisoned with arsenic six years ago. Now the three survivors—along with their black cat Jonas—are living together in deliberate tranquility, when long-lost cousin Charles arrives on their doorstep, barely concealing his interest in the lovely Constance and the Blackwood family estate. The narrative voice of Merrycat—nickname for Mary Katherine—is perhaps the most distinctive thing about the novel. Deceptively childlike, obsessed with omens, magic words, and lucky days, Merrycat is nevertheless a clear and sharp-eyed observer of the day-to-day events of her world. Her naive shrewdness speaks to us like Huckleberry Finn’s, her quirkiness charms us like Holden Caulfield’s, yet she possesses a distance, a reserve, that is all her own. Those of you who read novels like autobiographies will find tantalizing tidbits here. The local village resembles Jackson’s North Bennington, Vermont, a place Jackson always felt treated her family as outsiders (college eggheads, Democrats, atheists, Jews) and provided her the inspiration for her notorious early success, “The Lottery." The two sisters were inspired by Jackson’s two daughters, the placid and cautious Constance by Joanne and the superstitious and daring Merrycat by Sarah. But of course Jackson drew on herself for inspiration too, particularly from her fascination with witchcraft and sympathetic magic and her persistent, crippling agoraphobia. And Cousin Charles resembles her husband, in his critical comments about the housekeeping and his continual concerns about money. (Although husband Stanley was a literary critic, his wife Shirley was the literary cash cow of the family, and he once calculated precisely how much money was lost whenever his wife wasted her valuable time composing a letter to a friend.) Perhaps what I like best about the book—besides the dark humor, and the voice of Merrycat of course—is its sweet and sad conclusion. After the destruction has passed and gone—a climax which reveals the full impact of the novel’s title—we witness a family rebuild an old life out of love, and even glimpse a little human compassion for a change. It is the twilight happiness of Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale and The Tempest, the kind of happiness Lear and Cordelia might have enjoyed, if they had lived. Here is the novel’s famous first paragraph, which gives you a good idea of Merrycat’s distinctive voice: 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 cap mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    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? This book is looney tune. I'm not even sure about some things that happened. One of my GR friends needs to message me so we can discuss some things on this book. (Of course no one will read this so it's a mute point) So Constance, Merricat, and Uncle Julian live in the home together with all of their land enclosed. The rest of the 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? This book is looney tune. I'm not even sure about some things that happened. One of my GR friends needs to message me so we can discuss some things on this book. (Of course no one will read this so it's a mute point) So Constance, Merricat, and Uncle Julian live in the home together with all of their land enclosed. The rest of the family were killed. Merricat is the only one that leaves to get groceries and books in town where she is picked on by everyone. I loved her macabre thoughts of all the said people being dead. She had a lot of different macabre thoughts through-out the book. The book was just so strange and I enjoyed that, even though it made me feel crazier than I am! They had some jerk uncle that showed up trying to find their fortune. I was hoping he was going to meet a macabre end himself. But alas, he did not. And I'm a bit confused at the ending. Hopefully someone can help me out. Either way, I enjoyed the book Mel ❤️

  4. 4 out of 5

    Miranda Reads

    What you think you know, you don't Several years ago, someone poisoned the sugar bowl at the last Blackwood family dinner, resulting in the death of nearly every family member. Only the two sisters (Merricat and Constance) and their ailing uncle (Julian) remain on the secluded estate but they are not the same as they once were. Since that fateful day, each remaining member has become... slightly unhinged... much to the gossiping villagers horror and delight. Merricat has a wistful, gentle insanity What you think you know, you don't Several years ago, someone poisoned the sugar bowl at the last Blackwood family dinner, resulting in the death of nearly every family member. Only the two sisters (Merricat and Constance) and their ailing uncle (Julian) remain on the secluded estate but they are not the same as they once were. Since that fateful day, each remaining member has become... slightly unhinged... much to the gossiping villagers horror and delight. Merricat has a wistful, gentle insanity; Constance has petrifying agoraphobia; and Uncle Julian is on a loop - constantly obsessing over discovering what happened during the last Blackwood dinner. Everyone in the village wonders, constantly, which one of them could have done it? Then a mysterious cousin comes into town - with shrouded motives and a pushy personality. Merricat decides she must get rid of him before he discovers who killed the Blackwoods but how will she accomplish this with suspicious villagers crowding in at all sides and his own stubbornness to contend with? Bizarre and haunting throughout - the writing is beautiful and the story is riveting. I was absolutely swept into this story - I absolutely loved the characters. Merricat was both chilling and sweet. Constance was almost scarily rigid and yet loving towards her sister. Uncle Julian swung from senile to insane - I couldn't tear my eyes away. I loved the way the author managed the characters. All of their personalities shifted subtly during the story - each one becoming more and more disturbed, which (of course) sucked me deeper into this story. I could not find out who was the killer and the more I read, the less I wanted to know. The ending came upon me like a horror creeping in the night. This is definitely one I'd recommend! Audiobook Comments Read by Bernadette Dunne - she was absolutely perfect. Her haunting voice breathed life into this novel YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Snapchat @miranda.reads Happy Reading!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    My favorite Shirley Jackson novel. A masterpiece of unreliable narration and of the eerie relationship between childishness and horror. I'm now re-reading this for a December group read, so I thought I'd update this review as I go. A lot has already been written about the masterful opening paragraph of this book, so I'll focus instead on the opening chapter. It basically involves the narrator, Merricat, walking into town to do some shopping. Sounds boring? It's anything but that. Shirley Jackson u My favorite Shirley Jackson novel. A masterpiece of unreliable narration and of the eerie relationship between childishness and horror. I'm now re-reading this for a December group read, so I thought I'd update this review as I go. A lot has already been written about the masterful opening paragraph of this book, so I'll focus instead on the opening chapter. It basically involves the narrator, Merricat, walking into town to do some shopping. Sounds boring? It's anything but that. Shirley Jackson uses this mundane task to show the intense hostility between the Blackwood family and the town, as well as to show Merricat's rather unusual character. She's childish and playful: "I played a game when I did the shopping. I thought about the children's games where the board is marked into little spaces and each player moves according to a throw of the dice.... The library was my start and the black rock was my goal." And as she navigates this terrain full of landmines in the form of other people who taunt her and laugh at her, she can't help flashing her own hostility: "They saw me at once, and I thought of them rotting away and curling in pain and crying out loud; I wanted them doubled up and crying on the ground in front of me." Until at last she reaches the sanctuary of her home. It's a sanctuary that's as much magical as physical: "I had to put down the shopping bag to open the lock on the gate; it was a simple padlock and any child could have broken it, but on the gate was a sign saying PRIVATE NO TRESPASSING and no one could go past that." And then she sees the most important person in her life, her sister Constance, and her Uncle Julian--the last surviving members of her family. *** But almost immediately, that sanctuary is violated. Helen Clarke and Mrs. Wright come to tea, and we see Merricat fretting over what this will do to Constance, whether she's strong enough for visitors. There's a jealousy in Merricat that reminds me of the jealousy Eleanor has regarding Theodora in The Haunting of Hill House--a subterranean feeling that comes out in flashes of anger, like when Merricat smashes the milk pitcher in the kitchen. The scene with Helen Clarke and Mrs. Wright is also notable for its comedy--how everyone keeps dancing around the subject of the family deaths, except that Mrs. Wright can't help herself, she really wants to know, and Uncle Julian is more than happy to oblige by giving a guided tour of the dining room. Shirley Jackson has quite a comic touch here, though it's all undergirded by Merricat's ill-feelings toward these visitors and the recognition of the horrifying tragedy that befell her family. *** Shirley Jackson expertly ratchets up the tension by having Merricat sense something impending: "A change was coming, and nobody knew it but me." What's wonderful about this is that it raises the tension level even as you wonder whether something really is coming or whether she's just living in her own imagination. It also allows for some domestic scene-setting and banter with Uncle Julian without losing the narrative drive. I love when Merricat chooses three special protective words, thinking that "so long as these great words were never spoken aloud no change would come." She then writes the first word in jam on her toast and eats it--thinking that makes her "one-third safe"! *** The change, of course, is cousin Charles, who arrives without much explanation and basically moves in. It's clear right away that he's a gold-digger, and you can sense Merricat's rising anger and panic as he threatens her entire world by threatening to marry Constance. She employs her childish form of "magic" to try to ward him off or get him to leave, but nothing works, sending her spiraling into extremes. It's clear that Merricat thinks of him as the enemy when she watches him walk into town and talk easily to all the townsfolk who've been bullying her. He's one of "them," in her mind, and at that point the battle lines harden. *** One of the subtle mysteries of this book concerns the relationship between Merricat and Uncle Julian. My GR friend Nancy first pointed out, in a group discussion, that they don't really interact, except that Merricat keeps saying to herself that she ought to be nicer to him. I thought this was quite a profound insight, so I read the passages again more closely and noticed the same oddity. Uncle Julian says at one point that Merricat is dead, and then when Uncle Julian dies, Merricat hardly seems upset at all. In fact, she seems rather relieved, claiming that now she and Constance can start over again. Clearly there's something odd going on between them. My guess is that Merricat feels jealous of Uncle Julian, that she really wants Constance all to herself. [Spoiler alert to the end] Perhaps this is also a clue to the motivation behind the central crime--that it was really driven by Merricat's jealous desire to have her sister all to herself. Here again I see shades of Eleanor from The Haunting of Hill House. *** And finally, at the end, Merricat gets exactly what she wants--Constance all to herself. And Constance herself gives herself to Merricat's superior power, gives up any hope of having her own life. She cries as Charles leaves for the last time and says: "Merricat, I am so happy." And Merricat herself echoes this sentiment in the book's final chilling line: "Oh Constance," she says, "we are so happy."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    I might be the only person in the world who thinks this book is too weird, senseless, anticlimactic and almost plotless. The characters however are charismatic in their craziness. It's just not my type of crazy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Felice Laverne

    “The least Charles could have done,” Constance said, considering seriously, “was shoot himself through the head in the driveway.” Have you ever tiptoed down a hall in a dark house late at night, not sure if you really heard that bump in the night? That is what reading this novel was like, in all of the best ways possible. Shirley Jackson is a renowned master at the macabre, the unnerving, the Gothic genre, and this work puts her talents on full display—in HD. Most have read "The Lottery," wheth “The least Charles could have done,” Constance said, considering seriously, “was shoot himself through the head in the driveway.” Have you ever tiptoed down a hall in a dark house late at night, not sure if you really heard that bump in the night? That is what reading this novel was like, in all of the best ways possible. Shirley Jackson is a renowned master at the macabre, the unnerving, the Gothic genre, and this work puts her talents on full display—in HD. Most have read "The Lottery," whether forced by the classically inclined high school English teacher or for the pure love of the unusual, and here you will find the same masterful foreshadowing, biting eeriness and haunting cruelties found in a small-town community. As my Grandma used to say, “You can always count on those ole’ townies to hide the most secrets, put on the most airs and turn on ya the quickest,” and Jackson, once again, highlighted those small-town characteristics in a manner that left hairs raised on the arms and resonance echoing at the finish of each chapter. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a novel about two young adult sisters, Mary Katherine and Constance, who have essentially become lepers in their small town after an incident at their family dinner table six years before that left half of their family poisoned to death, one sister on trial for murder and the other in an orphanage. The women go about their lives, hardly ever even leaving their property and being openly hated by the townspeople, kept company by their ailing, eccentric uncle who loves to talk about “what happened” and their loyal cat, until one day a cousin comes a knocking and their lives are forever changed. It slowly becomes apparent that Merricat (Mary Katherine) is not 100% mentally stable, as she believes she has voodoo-like magical powers to protect herself, her family and her home, she has fantasies about how her dead family members should have treated her before they died, and she harbors obviously sadistic and murderous feelings towards the townspeople who tease and abuse them. “I would have liked to come into the grocery store some morning and see them all, even the Elberts and the children, lying there crying with the pain and dying. I would then help myself to groceries, I thought, stepping over their bodies, taking whatever I fancied from the shelves, and go home, with perhaps a kick for Mrs. Donell while she lay there.” This story had an aspect of urban legend to it, the makings of it and the effect that it has on those who hear it, who believe it. Jackson wove the tale so beautifully that I didn’t even realize how engrossed in their lives—a sign of truly good writing—I’d become until the cousin started changing the sisters’ routine and poking his nose around in that way that is uncomfortable for readers invested in the protagonists, in that way that makes your heart rate quicken just a touch. This story was a peep behind closed doors, both literally and figuratively. It was a look inside the protective bubble of recluse-ness, while simultaneously being an exploration of man’s nature to fear and hate what we do not, ourselves, understand. It was also social commentary in that delicious way that only Southern Gothicism can offer (though this novel has no clear mention of place, it is widely believed to have been set in Vermont, making it technically not Southern Gothic, though every other aspect of it is every bit that genre): it tore back the layers on the small town where everyone knows your name, on the myth of genteelism, courtesy, manners, and community that we all think of from this era of writing (Castle was originally published in 1962). What does it mean to be an outsider in a town like this, in a town where there is no degree of separation between any? In a town that needs a common enemy to unite over in gossip and violence alike? Because, you see, every bully loves a weaker kid, and there’s nothing more cruel than the mob mentality turned against a common enemy. Don’t believe me? Then you haven’t read "The Lottery." Castle was everything I’d hoped it’d be as a lover and writer of this genre. It was the macabre dressed in politesse that made you think twice—a skill extremely difficult to hone and, thus, all the more laudable when it is—the oddity of family unity and where those bonds can take you, for better or for worse; it was the sharp little dagger of lines like the one above and the what-really-happened-there aspect of the dinner-table happening. “It did happen. I remember that it happened…” Eerie. Easily five stars! ***** FOLLOW ME HERE: Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Get a Copy of My Book | Book Editing, Author Coaching, Submit Your Book to Me

  8. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    A.K.A.: Grey Gardens by William Faulkner. Are these unfortunate souls dead or alive in their domestic limbo? Oh, this is one delicious yarn with plenty of turns--with a terror that comes to us only by the Literary Mistress of the Dark Herself, Shirley Jackson. The luxurious morbidity, the Harper Lee Goth cynicism of the book, it is all an absolute delight. I am truly beginning to think that all of her books are like this one--the classiest horror of ALL TIME.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I hate you, Shirley Jackson. I HATE YOU!! I mean, I know you're dead and all, but still. . . I want to drive to your haunted house in Vermont and throw rocks at your windows. I want to smash every pumpkin, carved, by your front door. I want to hold a séance in your bedroom to summon your spirit, then I want to pull those ugly ass bobby pins from your hair, rip those ugly ass dated glasses off your nose and pull that ugly ass cable knit sweater over your face. And then. . . I think I want to make out I hate you, Shirley Jackson. I HATE YOU!! I mean, I know you're dead and all, but still. . . I want to drive to your haunted house in Vermont and throw rocks at your windows. I want to smash every pumpkin, carved, by your front door. I want to hold a séance in your bedroom to summon your spirit, then I want to pull those ugly ass bobby pins from your hair, rip those ugly ass dated glasses off your nose and pull that ugly ass cable knit sweater over your face. And then. . . I think I want to make out with you. Or make out with this book. Or something similar and sick. I'm so confused! I don't know if I feel love or hate, arousal or disgust. This book. I never wanted it to end. I want to make a giant bonfire out of every shitty, worthless book I've ever read, to provide the light to read and re-read and re-read and re-read this book. I could wish him dead until he died. I could fasten him to a tree and keep him there until he grew into the trunk and bark grew over his mouth. I could bury him in the hole where my box of silver dollars had been so safe until he came; if he was under the ground I could walk over him, stamping my feet. Ahhhhhh!!!!!! Shirley Jackson séance: All Hallows' Eve, Hill House, Vermont (USA). . . Midnight. Bring your bobby pins, bitches.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Edward Lorn

    Pretty language and creepy atmosphere mix with a plot I was expecting a little more from. I kept thinking, any minute now... any minute now this is going to blow a part in my hair... any minute now I'm going to think "Where has this book been all my life?" ... any minute now I'm going to see what everyone else sees in this book and cream my acid-washed Jordaches. And then it ended. Yup... The unreliable narrator worked well, and the agoraphobic feel of the piece was certainly established... but I Pretty language and creepy atmosphere mix with a plot I was expecting a little more from. I kept thinking, any minute now... any minute now this is going to blow a part in my hair... any minute now I'm going to think "Where has this book been all my life?" ... any minute now I'm going to see what everyone else sees in this book and cream my acid-washed Jordaches. And then it ended. Yup... The unreliable narrator worked well, and the agoraphobic feel of the piece was certainly established... but I didn't really care. There is no doubt that Jackson was a master of vivid imagery. Even if the story was beautifully drawn, there was nothing here that caught my eye. Look at it this way - you can paint the most realistic image of a cantaloupe, a piece of artwork that looks as if you can just reach out and grab one of those gorgeous melons and bite right into that fucker, but at the end of the day, it's only a picture of a fucking cantaloupe. This is possibly my hang up because I was expecting my testicles to explode because of awesome overload and instead they only began tingling slightly. Maybe I'll reread it later in life and come to realize its brilliance. In summation: I don't see what all the fuss is about, but then again, I've never been a fan of Goth-lit. Shirley J. sets the tone, but, in my opinion, never follows through. Final Judgment: A relaxing massage without the happy ending.

  11. 5 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    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! A cliche in American horror films is to include children singing a song that is seemingly innocent at first, but gnaws at the nerves with a haunting sadism. We watch children, young and naive, signing and spinning in a corn field bathed by an autumn dusk; the cliche works because it is an image that we welcome through o 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! A cliche in American horror films is to include children singing a song that is seemingly innocent at first, but gnaws at the nerves with a haunting sadism. We watch children, young and naive, signing and spinning in a corn field bathed by an autumn dusk; the cliche works because it is an image that we welcome through our front door for it’s familiar and idyllic pastoral sentimentality only to discover an intangible fear clawing out from within. It’s the murky pool from which the maggots of urban legends crawl forth and every town has one. There is the house on the corner children dare one another to touch, the homeless man we hear bears a horrific curse, the school basement where we are told a student once hanged themselves and still roams about (two of the three existed in my childhood town). Often these legends are purely of the imagination, yet occasionally there is a seed of truth. Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle focuses on the subjects of the urban legend seed, and holds the reader captive in their reclusive reality. The reader however, will not wish to leave this literary bondage and will likely find themselves sitting up flipping pages late into the evening. Two young woman and their ailing uncle are the sole occupants a mansion set off from the town, the sole survivors of a family poisoning that reverberates through the town with rumors and speculative fear. Castle is a chilling late-night walk through the haunted forests of human consciousness, a gripping psychological horror ripping through the idyllic American classic feel of the novel to expose the Gothic terrors that drench the New England landscapes. We always fear what we don’t understand. What makes Castle work so well is it’s familiarity and it’s warmth, an unexpected aspect to this chilling portrait of misanthropy. The novel humanizes the subjects of the townsfolk’s fear and revulsion, and it does so without apology by not skirting the issues of murder and isolation. Jackson sets the reader into this world without making them feel ill at ease through her style, a familiar embrace of tone and structure which recalls the small town American classics. It seemed to follow the format of a book you would read for high school literature, opening with a riveting first chapter that quickly yet eloquently set all the pieces in play while feeding you exposition hidden in the sugars of plot and leaving you gasping with questions you can’t wait to have fulfilled. Then it is followed by a second, lengthier chapter where an overarching conflict is introduced, typically through a minor conflict in plot where more exposition is unveiled through the banter of characters. It’s this sort of nostalgia for high school classics that immediately opens your heart to the book, but not just in structure but the plot, setting and characters as well. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is the first to come to mind. Like Lee, Jackson tells her story from the viewpoints of a young, tomboyish girl and wraps her tale within the folds of local politics and society. Here we have Mary Katherine, or Merricat as she is often referred, a girl of eighteen akin to a feral cat. Her and her sister Constance are embedded in the local society, but from a view on high being born into a family of wealthy landowners. Merricat, despite her disgust for her deceased relatives, continues their looking-down-the-nose opinions of the locals as filth except hers is one of violent hatred. I would have liked to come into the grocery store some morning and see them all, even the Elberts and the children, lying there crying with the pain and dying. I would then help myself to groceries, I thought, stepping over their bodies, taking whatever I fancied from the shelves, and go home, with perhaps a kick for Mrs. Donell while she lay there. I was never sorry when I had thoughts like this; I only wished they would come true. Merricat’s opening chapter is unabashedly honest, but doesn’t quite read like a confession but more as matter-of-fact. Like a cat—it is fitting that Merricat is always accompanied by a loyal and almost-too-human cat as if it were a children’s novel—Merricat is the sort to look you straight in the eye while she destroys the furniture. Which she will do time and time again out of spite. "I can't help it when people are frightened," says Merricat. "I always want to frighten them more." Merricat has many reasons beyond her better-than-thou upper-class upbringing to sadistically sneer at the townsfolk. They hate her and her older sister, reviling Constance for allegedly getting away with mass murder, they hate their family for former wounds caused by the snobbish and cruel father, and they take their disgust out with ridicule. Eventually, as events transpire, the sisters take on a sort of legend for their reclusive behavior and disregard for the company of villagers, being said to eat children among other things. The sisters are a symbolic repression of women and all things not aligning with the social norms of any age, damned into either shame or blissful solitude as rumors take wing and transform into hellish mythical beasts. Poor strangers, they have so much to be afraid of. By focusing on the sisters and viewing the world through Merricat’s childish and imaginative mind, we gain a unique perspective on the society. The children signing sadistic rhymes of horror films are in this perspective are the well-to-do well-wishers that feign friendliness towards the sisters. Both sides of this coin are seemingly innocent moments cloaking something sinister. When the disgust of the townsfolk reaches a violent climax, the sisters are further forced out from society towards a perspective that even the legitimate kind gesture must be ignored as to forever remove themselves from such a volatile society. Returning to the Merricat’s mind, it is her twisted perspective that most brilliantly colors the social portrait. For her any deviation from her comfortable normality is seen as threatening—a parallel to the social standards of the town that see their deviation as threatening—and Merricat feels imbued with magical powers that ward off such demons. All our land was enriched with my treasures buried in it, thickly inhabited just below the surface with my marbles and my teeth and my colored stones, all perhaps turned to jewels by now, held together under the ground in a powerful taut web which never loosened, but held fast to guard us. An old book nailed to a tree, for example, becomes a totem of power to her. When it falls so does her feeling of security. She is the wild human consciousness repressed, regressed and full of animalistic defensiveness. It is fitting that Jackson would choose New England as the setting for her novel, a novel that if it weren’t for the mention of cars could be set in nearly any New England era. The novel recalls the witch hunts of the area in all its Gothic sensibilities. What better place for a chilling tale told in the American wilderness. It is also reflective of the obdurate beliefs of a conservative catholic New England that so threatened Jackson and her Jewish husband that Jackson developed extreme agoraphobia. While out on my delivery route, I listen to a lot of NPR. This fall the Diane Rehm show did a segment on Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, a quintessential literary haunted house novel that I so loved in college. Comically, and much to the chagrin of the guests—two people well versed in the life and literature of Jackson—Ms Rehm openly hated the novel, even sighing when callers would label it as ‘wonderful’ or ‘genius’. At one point, the two guests agreed that We Have Always Lived in the Castle was Jackson’s strongest work of fiction (which places it even higher for them than her short story The Lottery, which is a staple of any American college student’s required literature courses)¹. I immediately made an unofficial stop to a used bookstore I'd recently discovered (I have a least one bookstore for route that I rotate through) and purchased a copy of Castle. It did not disappoint. It was a fine friend to have riding shotgun amidst the landscapes disrobing themselves of their fall colors that passed outside my van windows every day. Castle is an exquisite psychological tale of trauma and terror that your heart is sure to welcome in and grow fond of as it hides it’s dagger behind it’s back. 4/5 There had not been this many words sounded in our house for a long time, and it was going to take a while to clean them out. ¹ Guest Judy Oppenheimer, author of Private Demons: The Life of Shirley Jackson, added that her favorite of any Jackson book was Life Among the SavagesLiving With the Savages, Jackson’s memoirs about raising children. You can listen to the entire segment here.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    In The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson's group of misguided investigators discuss the idea that some houses are inherently born evil, and are destined to be haunted from the moment they're built. We Have Always Lived in the Castle explores the opposite idea: how a home becomes a haunted house. One of the many, many fascinating things about this book is the way it could have been approached in a completely different way. It could have opened with someone - a stranger to the village, most l In The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson's group of misguided investigators discuss the idea that some houses are inherently born evil, and are destined to be haunted from the moment they're built. We Have Always Lived in the Castle explores the opposite idea: how a home becomes a haunted house. One of the many, many fascinating things about this book is the way it could have been approached in a completely different way. It could have opened with someone - a stranger to the village, most likely, who didn't know the story - viewing the ruined Blackwood house. The house stands by itself behind a fence, and the townspeople still tell stories about the family who lived there once, and what happened there. The only ones who approach the house are children, on a dare, who run up to the front steps and sing, "Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea? Oh no, said Merricat, you'll poison me." The stranger asks around about this apparently-haunted house, and eventually, through flashbacks, its entire terrifying history is revealed. Another writer could have easily tackled We Have Always Lived in the Castle in this way, and the book would have been just as good. But Shirley Jackson is no ordinary horror writer, and she approaches the story of Blackwood House, and the people who lived there and made it what it was, in a straightforward way. She tells the story as it happens, not as a flashback, and we are able to watch the transformation of Blackwood House, and its inhabitants, in real time as the book unfolds. Simply put, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is the story of how a house becomes haunted. It's a ghost story without ghosts - or, more accurately, a story of how a person becomes a ghost. Our view into this house comes from Mary Katherine Blackwood, an eighteen-year-old girl who lives in Blackwood House with her older sister Constance (who is so severely agoraphobic that she can't venture past the yard) and her Uncle Julian, who is confined to a wheelchair and not quite in his right mind. Mary Katherine is responsible for taking care of what's left of her family, and she takes her job as protector very seriously. She's devised a series of talismans to guard the house against the townspeople, who she views as the enemy. But someone is coming to disrupt the routine that Mary Katherine has carefully created, and the intrusion will have horrible and far-reaching consequences. GOD, Shirley Jackson does creepy so well. Mary Katherine, in addition to belonging in the Unreliable Narrator Hall of Fame, is also responsible for giving us one of the best opening paragraphs in literature, when she introduces us to her life thusly: “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 our family is dead.” The slow reveal of what exactly happened to the rest of the Blackwood family and why is masterfully done, and Jackson reveals just enough information to keep us from getting frustrated, while still keeping some things hidden (admittedly, the identity of the murderer was pretty easy to guess, if only through process of elimination, but I promise that the why of the murder is a lot more interesting than the who). It's very important that we see the entire story through Mary Katherine's eyes specifically, because as I said, she's not a reliable narrator. "Unbalanced" is putting it lightly, and I could write an entire fucking dissertation on what Mary Katherine tells us vs. what's actually happening. For people who have finished the book: (view spoiler)[did anyone else wonder if Constance wasn't actually that afraid to go outside, but Mary Katherine was keeping her prisoner? Constance knows that Mary Katherine killed the rest of the family, and sometimes it seemed like Constance was afraid of Mary Katherine, and being nice to her just because the threat of being poisoned was hanging over her head. It's very subtle, but it comes through most clearly when Constance is trying to get Mary Katherine to back off Cousin Charles - several times, I got the sense that Constance was trying to calm Mary Katherine down without actually ordering her around, because she was afraid that her sister would react violently. I don't know - Mary Katherine is endlessly fascinating, and I still can't be totally sure what was real and what was in her mind. (hide spoiler)] Nobody does slow-burn, are-ghosts-real-or-are-the-monsters-people, is-this-real-or-am-I-crazy horror like Shirley Jackson. This book is brief, strange, purposefully vague, and terrifying. If you thought haunted-house stories don't need prequels, read this and see how wrong you were.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Ah Merricat, silly Merricat, I do believe I love you. I'm drawn to interestingly insane women, and though of course you would poison me in the end, what a maddening and mysterious time I would first have. You are high on my list of literary loves. At least ones I dare speak of. What I found so wonderful about this novel was the consistency of Merricat's insanity. Too often an author will distill the essence of insanity into the chaotic, and this is rarely a truism. Insanity is more often an over Ah Merricat, silly Merricat, I do believe I love you. I'm drawn to interestingly insane women, and though of course you would poison me in the end, what a maddening and mysterious time I would first have. You are high on my list of literary loves. At least ones I dare speak of. What I found so wonderful about this novel was the consistency of Merricat's insanity. Too often an author will distill the essence of insanity into the chaotic, and this is rarely a truism. Insanity is more often an overly-demanding focus, a hitch in a character, a mannerism that has growth as a cancer. Merricat (who I cannot help but to picture as beautiful, with long and lustrous black silken hair---despite all stated references to the contrary)loves to be left alone (that is, alone with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian) and she loves her superstitions. Her superstitions I found charming, and the lengths she will go to in order to remain alone, well, that is the crux of this novel. Merricat, silly Merricat, one day I will go into the village and distribute much-needed and much-deserved vengeance on your only somewhat illusory tormentors, and then I will go off (I dare not approach your house---such is forbidden) to await you on the moon.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Luffy

    This is one to cherish. I thought that I've seen everything there is to read. We Have Always Lived in the Castle almost...almost! surprised me. Here is the ultimate dysfunctional family. The Simpsons eat your heart out. Merricat has mostly her elder sister Constance to live with. Death by arsenic is a painful way to die. I've been fascinated by arsenic ever since I read The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It used to be available at the chemist and apparently you had to sign your name to get it. Anyw This is one to cherish. I thought that I've seen everything there is to read. We Have Always Lived in the Castle almost...almost! surprised me. Here is the ultimate dysfunctional family. The Simpsons eat your heart out. Merricat has mostly her elder sister Constance to live with. Death by arsenic is a painful way to die. I've been fascinated by arsenic ever since I read The Mysterious Affair at Styles. It used to be available at the chemist and apparently you had to sign your name to get it. Anyway family members of Merricat die, and she lives on. Not alone. Just lonely. A fact that she would die rather than admit. Merricat is quite the fashionista. Nah, I'm kidding. She's a precocious but oddly developed child. Death is a favorite subject of mine. I conditioned myself to expect it at least twice in my cozy mystery books. But here murder is chaos. Things aren't tied up in a bow by the end - read it for yourself to see.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Just another homicidal paranoid-schizophrenic proto-hippy 18 year old girl-child who lives with her older agoraphobic/social-phobic sister and dementia-sufferer wheelchair-bound uncle in an isolated house in the aftermath of a dreadful family tragedy whereby all of the family except these three were poisoned to death in that very house. It’s not an uncommon situation. I know three similar cases here in Nottingham, and I could have told Cousin Charles Blackwood, who turns up crudely attempting to Just another homicidal paranoid-schizophrenic proto-hippy 18 year old girl-child who lives with her older agoraphobic/social-phobic sister and dementia-sufferer wheelchair-bound uncle in an isolated house in the aftermath of a dreadful family tragedy whereby all of the family except these three were poisoned to death in that very house. It’s not an uncommon situation. I know three similar cases here in Nottingham, and I could have told Cousin Charles Blackwood, who turns up crudely attempting to prise the purported family fortune from the sisters’ wayward limbs, that he needn’t have bothered. His blundering honking outside-world male sensibleness will just come apart in his hands; he has no chance against a homicidal paranoid-schizophrenic proto-hippy 18 year old girl-child.

  16. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    High Gothic Art Hawthorne, Poe, Lovecraft, and even James: Jackson is in their company when it comes to the Gothic genre. She writes in noir et blanc; every word is necessary; the context is revealed at just the right continuous pace; and there is plenty to reveal. No gimmicks, no spiritualist allusions, no unlikely situations: Jackson puts later writers like Stephen King to shame with her talent and wit. Someone is a homicidal maniac, but which of the Blackwood sisters is it? The traumatized and High Gothic Art Hawthorne, Poe, Lovecraft, and even James: Jackson is in their company when it comes to the Gothic genre. She writes in noir et blanc; every word is necessary; the context is revealed at just the right continuous pace; and there is plenty to reveal. No gimmicks, no spiritualist allusions, no unlikely situations: Jackson puts later writers like Stephen King to shame with her talent and wit. Someone is a homicidal maniac, but which of the Blackwood sisters is it? The traumatized and agoraphobic Constance, or the obsessive-compulsive and more than slightly mad Mary Katherine? Or perhaps it’s the wheelchair-ridden Uncle Julian who fades in and out of dementia? The victims had their own problems, genetic as well as domestic; who knows but they did each other in. An accident is a possibility - perhaps the ancestors left some lethal material around. Then again, the ‘villagers’ are not a very stable bunch; nor for that matter are the ladies of the local gentry who have more than a morbid curiosity in the family Blackwood. When the sinister cousin Charles come to visit, the question becomes more than academic. The village itself is part of the mystery. How did it arise as what keeps it going economically? What is the cause of the animosity among the ‘leading families’? Why is the finest house in the village, which should be owned by the Blackwood’s, now a junkyard? There is no uncertainty that the village has some distinctive mores: “In this village the men stayed young and did the gossiping and the women aged with grey evil weariness and stood silently waiting for the men to get up and come home.” Jackson piles on the complexity at the same rate that she reveals the situation. For every question answered, two more are posed. The first person narrator might be either insane or acutely insightful. It’s a technique guaranteed to keep the reader’s interest. It’s also a technique which creates a narrative world amazingly efficiently. The questions of the reader are the things the characters themselves are concerned about. The stance of each, his or her position in the puzzle, is who they are. Little further description is necessary. Strangely, how they fit with other is enough for the reader to imagine what they look like, how they dress, what the landscape is like. For example, Jackson characterises the entire village without specifying anything: “All of the village was of a piece, a time, and a style; it was as though the people needed the ugliness of the village, and fed on it.” She adds nothing but a terse negative formula: “whatever planned to be colorful lost its heart quickly in the village.” Nothing more is needed. She provokes participation by the reader who fills in the descriptive gaps like the eye automatically interprets perspective. This is more than genre horror or fantasy. Jackson writes literary fiction. This is her masterpiece.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X

    I'm an outlier here, I didn't think much of the book at all. The plot was unbelievably hackneyed just like Shirley Jackson's other really-highly rated book, The Lottery. The author writes well - good atmospheric scenes and well-drawn characters but the plots are just so unoriginal and the characters with variations are nothing new either: we've all read them in many novels before. (view spoiler)[Two sisters, one is definitely bat shit crazy if not psychotic, and one is all caring and maternal, a I'm an outlier here, I didn't think much of the book at all. The plot was unbelievably hackneyed just like Shirley Jackson's other really-highly rated book, The Lottery. The author writes well - good atmospheric scenes and well-drawn characters but the plots are just so unoriginal and the characters with variations are nothing new either: we've all read them in many novels before. (view spoiler)[Two sisters, one is definitely bat shit crazy if not psychotic, and one is all caring and maternal, and a crazy uncle live together in a mansion surrounded by vast gardens and a giant locked gate. One of the sisters poisoned the entire rest of the family. Is it the normal one or the really crazy one? Well, yeah, it was the really crazy one. The uncle lives in the past and goes on about the murder that he is going to write about one day. They are hated by the villagers. Into their life comes a cousin, he's after the money in the locked safe. There's a fire. The sisters are even more isolated in their burned-out shell of but back comes the cousin for a last go at getting the money. They kill him, they bury him in the garden. They go on with their crazy, isolated life. Maybe they even have a suicide pact. (hide spoiler)] So I tried to read the book yesterday, but I couldn't get through it and downloaded the film instead. All very atmospheric and great acting, but what was the point of it? Nothing happened! And the great confession at the end of Who Really Did the Murders was obvious right from the beginning. So there you go, I'm unimpressed. Meh.

  18. 4 out of 5

    emma

    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! I don’t really have a good reason to begin with that quote, other than the fact that I’m obsessed with it. It’s up there with the Boggis, Bunce, & Bean poem from Fantastic Mr. Fox in the global rankings of Creepy Rhymes Chanted By Neighborhood Children In Reference To Nearby Monster-People. The difference between this boo 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! I don’t really have a good reason to begin with that quote, other than the fact that I’m obsessed with it. It’s up there with the Boggis, Bunce, & Bean poem from Fantastic Mr. Fox in the global rankings of Creepy Rhymes Chanted By Neighborhood Children In Reference To Nearby Monster-People. The difference between this book and Fantastic Mr. Fox, besides the hundreds of obvious ones, is that our heroes ARE those monster-people. And not, you know, a group of talking animals so adorable and charming it was legally mandated Wes Anderson had to adapt it into a movie. Or something. A similarity between this book and Fantastic Mr. Fox - likely the only one other than the above rhyme - is that both are wonderful. This is so creepy, and atmospheric, and beautifully written. Reading this is an intense experience, often uncomfortable, oddly addictive, and counterintuitively I felt sad when it was over. I love Merricat and Constance and Uncle Julian, and their strange rituals and old house and manners of speaking. Shirley Jackson really said men are trash and that’s that on that. Relatedly, I have made up my mind to read every Shirley Jackson book I can get my hands on. Also this cover is gorgeous. Bottom line: This is very much my aesthetic. (No one correct me on my grammatically incorrect use of the word “aesthetic” - I’m using it in the hip cool slang way. Thank you.) --------------------- this book is fantastic. review to come / 4.5 stars --------------------- the rumors are true: i did whisper-shout YES to myself when i found a copy of this in a used bookstore

  19. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    Happy Halloween, (which for horror fans in general or Shirley Jackson fans in particular is basically every day of the year), in conjunction with my having just read The Shirley Jackson Project, a comics tribute collection edited by Robert Kirby. 9/17/18: Third read for my Fall 2018 YA course, and what has emerged as one of my favorite books of all time. This time I noticed all the food references more than ever. And loved the strange lyricism of Merricat's deft observations. Are Merricat and Co Happy Halloween, (which for horror fans in general or Shirley Jackson fans in particular is basically every day of the year), in conjunction with my having just read The Shirley Jackson Project, a comics tribute collection edited by Robert Kirby. 9/17/18: Third read for my Fall 2018 YA course, and what has emerged as one of my favorite books of all time. This time I noticed all the food references more than ever. And loved the strange lyricism of Merricat's deft observations. Are Merricat and Constance really happy in their life in the castle, and should we just leave them alone with their choices of isolation, or are they cases of arrested development, of stasis, of the opposite of "coming-of-age" and maturation that we expect in a YA novel? You get to choose, I think. 9/12/17: I read this in March of this year for a course I was teaching and read it again for my fall YA course. A memorable tale of gothic suspense by Jackson, the author of the much anthologized, exquisitely perverse short story, “The Lottery" (1948). Castle is Jackson’s last book, often described as her masterpiece, featuring two of the best sister acts in American literature, Constance and her sister Mary Katherine, or Merricat, who says things like this: “On the moon we wore feathers in our hair, and rubies on our hands. On the moon we had gold spoons.” And, to her sister, Constance: “Oh Constance, we are so happy.” Who replies and often says, "Silly, silly Merricat." But truly un-merry Merricat also says things like this, about the people of the town: “I'm going to put death in all their food and watch them die.” Six years ago, several of the Blackwood family were poisoned, from arsenic sprinkled with sugar on a bowl of blackberries. Constance, who was in the kitchen, was and still is widely suspected of the crime, of which Merricat simply says: “Fate intervened. Some of us, that day, she led inexorably through the gates of death. Some of us, innocent and unsuspecting, took, unwillingly, that one last step to oblivion. Some of us took very little sugar.” Merricat's distinctive narrator’s voice joins those of Scout and Holden Caufield as unforgettable teen main characters in American literature. At turns creepy, delightful, dark, with a touch of black humor, the book also features Constance, Merricat's caretaker sister, weirdly hilarious Uncle Julian, and greedy Cousin Charles who comes to live in the castle for a time. I was intrigued by the tension between the townies and the Blackwood family holed up in their dark gothic mansion. I loved the chilling moment of the Big Reveal, that dramatic horrific climax, but I also loved the strangely sweet conclusion, colored as always by Merricat’s strange witchy habits: “All our land was enriched with my treasures buried in it, thickly inhabited just below the surface with my marbles and my teeth and my colored stones, all perhaps turned to jewels by now, held together under the ground in a powerful taut web which never loosened, but held fast to guard us.” A masterpiece, revealing more riches at every reading.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sid

    Loved it !

  21. 5 out of 5

    Justin Tate

    This book was my first exposure to Shirley Jackson and, perhaps consequently, holds an abnormally large portion of my heart. The Haunting of Hill House is probably better, and "The Lottery" is perhaps the best 20 pages of prose ever written, but I find myself daydreaming of We Have Always Lived in the Castle the most. I'm not going to describe plot because I went into it knowing nothing and liked it that way. If you absolutely need to know, read the description--but also know that it won't do it This book was my first exposure to Shirley Jackson and, perhaps consequently, holds an abnormally large portion of my heart. The Haunting of Hill House is probably better, and "The Lottery" is perhaps the best 20 pages of prose ever written, but I find myself daydreaming of We Have Always Lived in the Castle the most. I'm not going to describe plot because I went into it knowing nothing and liked it that way. If you absolutely need to know, read the description--but also know that it won't do it justice. No description can account for characters this expertly developed, a setting this crisp and haunting. Like "The Lottery," Jackson uses every word to propel the story to its startling and delicious conclusion. Nearly 60 years later, you would think her prose would feel a bit dated. But not at all. It could be a classic assigned for school, or it could be a just-released pop novel. Jackson's secret, I think, is that she has the rare ability to blend art and beauty with accessibility. Her characters are brooding and abnormal, yet somehow just like all of us. The plot is ripe with symbolism and art, but also just as juicy as your favorite page-turner. There are few books that I feel are truly must-reads. Like, your life will not be complete without experiencing them. This is one of them.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Raeleen Lemay

    good stuff. (review to come)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    *checks watch* looks like it's time for an unpopular opinion... as much as i'd love to say that this is a new favorite, i was horribly underwhelmed by this book. i can't argue that Shirley Jackson is very good at creating an eerie atmosphere, but that was about all that i liked from this. the slow buildup was lost on me, because i guessed the "big twist" early on, and the book as a whole felt anticlimactic and plotless. i can appreciate the quiet kind of horror that this book provides, and i would *checks watch* looks like it's time for an unpopular opinion... as much as i'd love to say that this is a new favorite, i was horribly underwhelmed by this book. i can't argue that Shirley Jackson is very good at creating an eerie atmosphere, but that was about all that i liked from this. the slow buildup was lost on me, because i guessed the "big twist" early on, and the book as a whole felt anticlimactic and plotless. i can appreciate the quiet kind of horror that this book provides, and i would recommend it to people who are looking for something that is unsettling without being downright scary. but other than that, this was a massive disappointment.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    Such a classic. Even when we know what's going on and why it's happening, it's so easy to fall into the character and root for her. I can't stand the things that people put her through, from the town, to Charles, or even to her own parents. (Although to be sure, we only get a tiny little glance at her parents from a few repeated lines.) When reading this I was thinking of Paul Tremblay's Head Full of Ghosts for the murder (some say accident) of most of the family at dinner, but of course, this wa Such a classic. Even when we know what's going on and why it's happening, it's so easy to fall into the character and root for her. I can't stand the things that people put her through, from the town, to Charles, or even to her own parents. (Although to be sure, we only get a tiny little glance at her parents from a few repeated lines.) When reading this I was thinking of Paul Tremblay's Head Full of Ghosts for the murder (some say accident) of most of the family at dinner, but of course, this was the spiritual mother of that tale. All the little hints and reveals weren't precisely news, of course, but the real treat was in the psychological nuance. Like The Haunting of Hill House, it's not the outright horror scenes that make the book shine, but the way the characters are unstable, what it means, and how it drives the details and the horror of the final scenes. For anyone in love with psychology, Shirley Jackson is a treasure trove of discussable characters. Hell, Shirley Jackson herself suffered from quite a few of them, herself, and brought the feels to the page in a way that few others could dream. The townsfolk were walking nightmares, all color drained out of them. Paranoid delusions or not, I was always rooting on Merricat. Did I get very disturbed by her imaginings? Not really. People can be real *hits. Was I disturbed by her reciting of poisons or the magical incantations she made up in order to protect her house? Not at all. Again, I like weird people and she was, despite what we figure out on a careful first read, mostly just dancing to her own drum. She grew up strange and was always told she could do no wrong. After the deaths, who wouldn't get a lot stranger when every single person in the town believed you did it? Even if she hadn't, it'd drive most people insane. Shirley Jackson is a master at turning normal people into monsters, and this book is no different. I know a ton of modern horror writers who give this author major props and I have to say, it's all very well deserved. :) Bravo! Now if only we as a people hadn't driven this author into agoraphobia, seclusion, and persecution... until she died, alone, before she had even turned fifty. She wrote about what she knew, after all. Chilling.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a 1962 mystery novel by American author Shirley Jackson. Merricat Blackwood, her elder sister Constance, and their ailing Uncle Julian live in a large house on extensive grounds, in isolation from the nearby village. Constance has not left their home in six years, going no farther than her large garden. Uncle Julian, confined to a wheelchair, obsessively writes and re-writes notes for his memoirs, while Cons We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a 1962 mystery novel by American author Shirley Jackson. Merricat Blackwood, her elder sister Constance, and their ailing Uncle Julian live in a large house on extensive grounds, in isolation from the nearby village. Constance has not left their home in six years, going no farther than her large garden. Uncle Julian, confined to a wheelchair, obsessively writes and re-writes notes for his memoirs, while Constance cares for him. Through Uncle Julian's ramblings, the events of the past are revealed, including what happened to the remainder of the Blackwood family: six years ago both the Blackwood parents (John and Ellen), an aunt (Julian's wife Dorothy), and a younger brother (Thomas) were murdered – poisoned with arsenic, which was mixed into the family's sugar bowl and sprinkled onto blackberries at dinner. Julian, though poisoned, had survived; Constance, who did not put sugar on her berries, was arrested for, and eventually acquitted of, the crime. Merricat was not at dinner, having been sent to bed without dinner as punishment. The people of the village believed that Constance had gotten away with murder, and thus began to ostracize the family. The three remaining Blackwoods had grown accustomed to their isolation, leading a quiet, happy existence. Merricat is the family's sole contact with the outside world, walking into the village twice a week and carrying home groceries and library books; on these trips she is faced directly with the hostility of the villagers and often followed by groups of children, who taunt her, often with an accusing rhyme. They are quite harsh and rude, and it is made obvious that Merricat knows that her family is hated by the townsfolk. ... عنوانها: ما همیشه در قصر زندگی کرده‌ ایم؛ ما همیشه قلعه‌ نشینان؛ ما یک عمر قلعه‌ نشین بوده‌ ایم؛ همیشه در قلعه زیسته‌ ایم؛ نویسنده: شرلی جکسون؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هفتم ماه نوامبر سال 2017 میلادی عنوان: ما همیشه در قصر زندگی کرده‌ ایم؛ نویسنده شرلی جکسون؛ مترجم محمدرضا شکاری؛ تهران کتابسرای تندیس‏‫، چاپ دوم 1395؛ در 199ص؛ شابک 9786001821844؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م عنوان: ما همیشه قلعه‌ نشینان؛ نویسنده: شرلی جکسن؛ مترجم:علیرضا مهدی‌پور؛ ویرایش: سپیده رضوی؛ تهران نشر چشمه‏‫، ‏‫1395؛ در 198ص؛ ‬‬‮‬شابک 9786002294128؛ عنوان: ما یک عمر قلعه‌ نشین بوده‌ ایم؛ نویسنده: شرلی جکسون.‏‫؛ مترجم: رضا اسکندری آذر؛ ویراستار: کاوه اکبری؛ تهران آگه‏‫، 1396؛ در 192ص؛ شابک 9789643293215؛ عنوان: همیشه در قلعه زیسته‌ ایم؛ نویسنده: شرلی جکسون؛ مترجم: علی معصومی؛ بوشهر پاتیزه، ‏‫‏‏‏‏1395؛ در 183ص؛ شابک 9786009618408؛ کتاب «ما یک عمر قلعه نشین بوده ایم»، رمانی نوشته ی «شرلی جکسون» است، که نخستین بار در سال 1962 میلادی منتشر شد؛ روایت زندگی دو خواهر است، که با عموی پیر و گربه‌ شان، در یک خانه ی دور افتاده از اجتماع، خارج از یک روستا، زندگی می‌کنند؛ خانواده‌ ای که علی‌رغم ظاهر زیبا و اشرافی‌شان، با دشمنان، خارجی‌ها، و هرکسی که به آنها احترام نگذارد، و یا قلمروشان را با حضورش، آلوده کند، با خشن‌ترین شیوه‌ ی ممکن، برخورد می‌کنند؛ «ما یک عمر قلعه‌ نشین بوده‌ ایم» حکایت زندگی «مری‌ کاترین بلک‌وود»، کوچکترین دختر خانواده ی «بلک‌وود»هاست، که با خواهر زیبایش «کنستانسین»، و عموی پیر و زمین‌گیرش «جولین»، و گربه‌ اش «جوناس»، در خانه‌ ای زیبا و اشرافی زندگی میکنند اینکه چرا اهالی دهکده با دختران «بلک‌وود» بد هستند، و اینکه چرا آنها را مسخره می‌کنند، و اینکه چرا کودکان روستا، به دنبال «کاترین بلک‌ودد» می‌دوند، و به آواز می‌خوانند: «کانی می‌گه مری کت، چایی بیارم برات؟ مری می‌گه نه! نه! زهر می‌ریزی تو نبات! کانی می‌گه مری‌ کت، می‌خوای بری بخوابی؟ آره توی قبرستون، وای یه خواب حسابی!»؛ قتل و مرگ و میر، اگرچه هسته‌ ی نخستین شکل‌گیری داستان «ما یک عمر قلعه‌ نشین بوده‌ ایم» را، شکل می‌دهد، اما به لطف روایت منحصر به فرد داستان، از زبان «مری‌کت»، چنان به حاشیه رانده می‌شود، که کمتر مورد توجه قرار می‌گیرد؛ همچنین همین زاویه‌ ی دید، رویدادهای داستان است، که قضاوت خوانشگر درباره‌ ی رویدادهای داستان، نظیر علت برخورد عجیب و غریب اهالی روستا با «بلک‌وود»ها، یا علت تنفر از آنها را، دگرگون می‌سازد؛ در واقع «مری‌کت» با همه‌ ی وسواس‌هایش، به‌ زیرکی تلاش می‌کند، تا در میان دشمنان فراوانش زنده بماند؛ دشمنانی که از کشتاری که در عمارت «بلک‌وود»ها رخ داده، و مسببینش بی‌ اعتراف و عقوبت، راحت، در نزدیکی آنها زندگی می‌کردند، چندان خرسند نیستند؛ در مجموع اگر از انتها به ابتدای داستان نگاهی بیندازیم، «ما یک عمر قلعه‌ نشین بوده‌ ایم» روایتی است از اینکه: چگونه یک خانه‌ ی زیبا و پر رونق، به خانه‌ ی اشباح بدل می‌شود ا. شربیانی

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    I’m just going to come right out and say it: Shirley Jackson knows how to tell a story. Though she may be best known for her work in the psychological suspense genre, I’m pretty convinced she was not limited by this label, nor would she have been by any other, and this work would most likely fall into the “other” category. But there’s no reason to take my word for it; even Oliver (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] found himself drawn to her work, enthralled by her words, and I’m just going to come right out and say it: Shirley Jackson knows how to tell a story. Though she may be best known for her work in the psychological suspense genre, I’m pretty convinced she was not limited by this label, nor would she have been by any other, and this work would most likely fall into the “other” category. But there’s no reason to take my word for it; even Oliver (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] found himself drawn to her work, enthralled by her words, and taken in by her characters to such an extent that his appetite for Jackson’s novel was all-consuming. He practically devoured the story in one sitting! It took me a bit more than a single sitting, but whatever remains of this story Oliver left for me I nonetheless enjoyed. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is Jackson’s final novel, and somewhat melds ideas and themes prevalent in “The Lottery” and in The Haunting of Hill House. The first-person narrator is an 18 year-old infant, a childish adult not unlike the kids from Dogtooth with their alarming degree of worldlessness, and through the course of the narrative, we (the reader) find ourselves being duped several times over as our impressions of the characters are formed and reformed, morphing as quickly and as seemingly effortlessly as a T-1000. Are the villagers as chillingly terrible as Mary Katherine Blackwood would have us believe, and as we are confident she herself believes? Is there perhaps something more deviant and sinister to the Mary Katherine whose older sister playfully admonishes as “Silly Merricat”? Or—and more likely—does the novel rather take place in a gray area of suspicion and questionable motives, screwing around with our sense of moral placement? If I could rate with half-stars, I’d probably have given this a 3½. While the writing itself is top notch, the story ends kind of anticlimactically, and while the plot is well paced, one could often tell where it was going before it got there. Still, these are minor quibbles. A good Shirley Jackson book is a great book in general, as it turns out.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh

    Just plain creepy and oozing atmosphere. I won’t say much, went in cold and so should you. Not horror, no gore or monsters, it’s better than that. We’re talking the frailties of the human mind - MADNESS! We outgrow our fear of creatures that go bump in the night; so immured by the constant bombardment of blood & guts on TV that we can barely work up the energy to cringe anymore – but the fear of losing your mind? Now that one niggles, I know I have my bad days. So yeah, stories like this work f Just plain creepy and oozing atmosphere. I won’t say much, went in cold and so should you. Not horror, no gore or monsters, it’s better than that. We’re talking the frailties of the human mind - MADNESS! We outgrow our fear of creatures that go bump in the night; so immured by the constant bombardment of blood & guts on TV that we can barely work up the energy to cringe anymore – but the fear of losing your mind? Now that one niggles, I know I have my bad days. So yeah, stories like this work for me way more than pure horror. You share Marricat’s agoraphobia, there’s a pervasive unease, in fact would have been a bit to much if it wasn’t balanced with ghoulish humour compliments of Uncle Julian (view spoiler)[ as crackers as the rest but savvy enough to peg Charles as “a damned impertinent puppy”> (hide spoiler)] - a splendid character – as is Jonas the cat. The glowing reviews on this little novella from friends didn’t steer me wrong. If you’re in the mood for something that’s a bit twisted & definitely weird - but in the good way - give it a try. “It was as though the people needed the ugliness of the village, and fed on it. The houses and the stores seemed to have been set up in contemptuous haste to provide shelter for the drab and the unpleasant.”

  28. 4 out of 5

    Evgeny

    A group reads with the following people: Ashley, Ginger, and Jeff. I will update the list if other people will join (I am totally NOT looking at you, Dan 2.0). The less I say about the plot the less spoilers I give - I consider the usual blurbs for this book to be quite spoilerish. In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Sorry wrong tale. Let me start again. In a lonely house there lived Mary Katherine (Merricat) Blackwood, her sister Constance Blackwood, and their uncle Julian Blackwood. T A group reads with the following people: Ashley, Ginger, and Jeff. I will update the list if other people will join (I am totally NOT looking at you, Dan 2.0). The less I say about the plot the less spoilers I give - I consider the usual blurbs for this book to be quite spoilerish. In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Sorry wrong tale. Let me start again. In a lonely house there lived Mary Katherine (Merricat) Blackwood, her sister Constance Blackwood, and their uncle Julian Blackwood. To call these people slightly strange would be an understatement of the year. Their lives were build around strictly following the rituals they had set for themselves until one day an unusual event broke the routine. The story is told from Marricat point of view and she was probably the most strange of the bunch; strange to the point of being spooky. She reminded me of Wednesday Adams, but the latter was almost normal compared to our heroine. It was fascinating to follow Marricat - fascinating like watching a train wreck in progress. Spooky too. Kudos to Shirley Jackson for creating great highly appropriate atmosphere of the Blackwoods and their house. However do not expect to grow attached to any of the character, or care about them. They are great, but will leave you completely emotionless. My problem (the only one, but it was quite big) was that I could predict everything that will happen and did happen before the story started way in advance. No development was surprising for me. Still the atmosphere carried the book (besides, it is standalone and not too long) and my rating is 4 stars; very weak 4 stars at that.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    A creepy little tale from a bullied psychopaths point of view. Stars rounded up from three on account of the villagers' choices before and after the main event.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Shirley Jackson was always a unique writer, with seeming innocuous stories which have an uneasy undercurrent of rage and craziness bubbling beneath the surface. I’m definitely down with that. When I was a teacher, one of my favorite Jackson stories to teach was “Charles” rather than “The Lottery”. Both stories percolate (“Charles” is meant to be funny in a Dennis the Menace runs amok kind of way) until the big reveals at the end. Zigging when you thought she would zag – Twilight Zone for the lit Shirley Jackson was always a unique writer, with seeming innocuous stories which have an uneasy undercurrent of rage and craziness bubbling beneath the surface. I’m definitely down with that. When I was a teacher, one of my favorite Jackson stories to teach was “Charles” rather than “The Lottery”. Both stories percolate (“Charles” is meant to be funny in a Dennis the Menace runs amok kind of way) until the big reveals at the end. Zigging when you thought she would zag – Twilight Zone for the literati – or people who read the New Yorker. Here, she lets her flag of oddity fly from the beginning. Merricat Blackwood, the book’s teenaged narrator, has issues. (view spoiler)[ Homicidal issues! (hide spoiler)] As she runs errands, you can gauge the tension between her family and the town, but don’t quite know what the underlying cause is. This book reads like an Addams Family episode without the jokes, the 7 foot tall butler, the disembodied hand and cousin It. It’s an eccentric family dialed up to 11. And in real life, rural/small townsfolk usually have a built-in aversion to the eccentric. Jackson modeled her fictional town after North Bennington, Vermont. About the ending: (view spoiler)[ The townsfolk take the opportunity after a fire at the Blackwood home to destroy whatever’s in the Blackwood’s home. At this point, Merricat and her sister, who’s also eccentric in her own way, choose to live in what remains of the house. The town, having punished the Blackwoods, now assuages their guilt by sending food to the sisters; they also reach a narrow point of acceptance and leave the sisters to themselves. The sisters hunker down in what’s left of the house and are content to be left alone “on the moon”. It’s a weird win-win. (hide spoiler)] Many critics consider this Jackson’s best work. My only word of caution is to not go into this book expecting a horror novel; it isn’t. It’s foremost a character study that has elements of a mystery. Jackson’s portrait of the sisters is sympathetic with portions of her trademark dark humor. This was a buddy read with members in good standing of the Pantsless League of the Eccentric.

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