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We Have Always Lived in the Castle

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. Shirley Jackson's beloved gothic tale of a peculiar girl named Merricat and her family's dark secret, with an afterword by Jonathan Lethem. A Penguin Vitae Edition Merricat Blackwood lives on the...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Perfect creepy read for a lazy day!

I wouldn't call this book horror but Shirley Jackson's story is short and to the point without lacking detail. I was able to become attached to the characters and have vivid visualizations of scenes that I can't let go. Plot twist wasn't shocking but I would still recommend to someone looking for a book that's a little different, a little dark, and very satisfying :)

Jackson was a genius, she left us too soon.

A young woman, her older sister, and their uncle live as pariahs on a crumbling estate next to a small town. We first meet the girl on one of her tortuous and torturous bi-weekly excursions into town to get supplies. Something happened at the house on the estate seven years ago which devastated this once prosperous, leading family. The full story is not revealed until near the end of the book and Jackson deals out pieces of information through the main character's bizarre thoughts, the cruel actions of the town's people, and the interactions and rituals of the surviving members of the family in their spooky museum-like house. I doubt that a more insightful, compassionate exploration of madness has ever been written -compassionate without being maudlin or judgmental. The love between the two sisters is of a quality not suited to the world they live in. As in many other Jackson stories, the morals and sanity of small town America take a beating. Wonderfully paced, this is a psychological novel in the best sense of the word.

The most disturbing, heartbreaking novel I have ever read

I strongly believe that this is the greatest, most powerful horror novel ever written, and I would go so far as to rank it among the top five pieces of literature the world has ever known. It truly is the most disturbing, original, heartbreaking story I have ever read. It is almost impossible to describe, as are the emotions I feel having read it--it taps virtually every emotion I know of. Merricat is the most unusual, utterly tragic heroine in the universe of fiction. She lives happily with her older sister Constance, her uncle Julian, and her cat Jonas. The rest of the family died several years earlier, murdered with arsenic during the family's evening meal. Although Constance was suspected of the deed, she was acquitted. Nevertheless, the three Blackwoods live in total isolation, and Merricat's twice-weekly trips into the village for groceries are horribly taxing on her because the villagers all laugh at her and tease her mercilessly about the family's tragic history. Merricat likes to bury things and play with her cat and hide near the brook; Constance is perfectly content cooking for her family and keeping the house immaculately clean, and Uncle Julian devotes himself to writing a book about the murder of most of his family. The strange trio is happy and safe in their self-isolation until a cousin shows up at the door and brings ruin, despite Merricat's magical safeguards. The interrelationships of the sisters and uncle is often nonsensical yet very real and adorable. Cousin Charles is a greedy beast, yet only Merricat seems cognizant of this fact initially. The really despicable people are the villagers, however. Never tiring of their constant teasing and harassment of Merricat on her few public appearances, the utterly black heart of the mob is vividly shown toward the end of the book. The end of the novel is incredibly emotional and touching and brought tears to my eyes. I wish I could truly describe this novel, but the only words that can accomplish that are those of this mesmerizing book itself.On the back of my older copy of this novel, the book is described as an item of black magic that will cast a spell upon the reader; never were truer words written. The psychology underlying all of Jackson's fiction is deeply complex, unique in literature, and maddeningly compelling. But there is also much tenderness to be found here alongside the pain and horror of the Blackwood family story. This is tragedy surpassing even the best work of Sophocles. Anyone who reads this novel and is not deeply affected emotionally is simply not human. If I could have reached into this fictional world and pulled Merricat, Constance, Julian, and Jonas out, I would have done so. The powerlessness I felt as a reader, quite unable to protect and comfort the characters, was truly agonizing, and it was sometimes all I could do to keep myself from getting up and running around the room in exasperation. Anyone feeling at all depressed really shoul

Quirky, creepy and satisfying.

I had to read "The Lottery" in high school; I'll always recall the impression that story had one me, with its ending of pure surprise. I had never read anything else by Shirley Jackson, and this novel's premise sounded interesting, and so I picked it up.And I couldn't put it down. The narrator, Mary Katherine Blackwood is an eighteen year-old girl who behaves like a much younger child. She lives with her sister Contance, who years before was tried and acquitted of murdering almost the whole family by putting arsenic in the sugar bowl.This novel is at once a mystery of what happened that one night when the family died, and a suspense thriller of what happens when cousin Charles comes to visit and seems as if he doesn't plan to leave, unless with the family fortune.But, the most driving and irresistable part of the book is the quirky and creepy voice of Mary Katherine; she's child-like, naive, scheming and malicious all in one twisted voice. This novel is every bit as satisfying as "The Lottery."

We Have Always Lived in the Castle Mentions in Our Blog

We Have Always Lived in the Castle in Madams of Macabre and Damsels of Darkness
Madams of Macabre and Damsels of Darkness
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • October 09, 2019

It may seem that the horror genre is overrun with male writers, but women have long been dark horses in the field, with one of the frontrunners being a certain Ms. Jackson (and we're not talking about Janet). As we move into the season of spooky stories, we present the consummate Shirley Jackson, plus six more of our favorite horror authors (who also happen to be female).

We Have Always Lived in the Castle in Normal Shmormal, Celebrate Peculiar People Day!
Normal Shmormal, Celebrate Peculiar People Day!
Published by Beth Clark • January 10, 2019
Peculiar People Day is a time to celebrate the quirky, eccentric, silly, weird, curious, colorful, irreverent, and intriguing oddballs in your life. You know the ones...they see the world a little—or a lot—differently, have a unique style that's all their own, and/or make you laugh when you least expect it by saying the things most people only think. If you're the peculiar one, lucky you! Embrace your wonderfully brilliant uniqueness in all its splendor and let your freak flag fly. (Your way, of course.) Keep reading for ten of our favorite peculiar literary characters.
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