We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson

1. First lines. 2. Published 2009 Penguin (First published 1962 by Viking Books) 3. Villa-house-manor [Public Domain] Image by Peter H from Pixabay 4. Teapot shape [Public Domain] Pixabay 5. Wallpaper [Public Domain] Pixabay

Merricat Blackwood lives with her sister Constance and Uncle Julian, an invalid, in a big house in a small town, where the local people taunt her. Constance, who never leaves the house, has been acquitted of the crime of killing the rest of the family six years ago by putting arsenic in the sugar. Another uncle (Charles) arrives to stay. Constance is pleased, but Merricat is distrustful, especially when he wants to get his hands on the safe.


“I can’t help it when people are frightened,” says Merricat. “I always want to frighten them more.” 

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!

My thoughts:

Highly recommended. This story is short, intense, and atmospheric. From the beginning, the reader knows that something very weird is going on, and the reader would be right.

Book reviews:
  • Guardian:“We Have Always Lived in the Castle is an entrancing, unsettling tale that builds like the pressure pushed ahead of an approaching storm; Jackson weaves words like Merricat makes the talismans that she believes must protect what is left of her family from the outside world. The pressure and tension climbs and climbs towards a climax that is simultaneously unavoidable and shocking.”
  • Kirkus: “There’s a childlike charm here, an occasional chill and just a touch of gentle madness which give this a very special kind of sorcery and seduction.”

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a 2018 American mystery thriller movie directed by Stacie Passon, written by Mark Kruger, and starring Taissa Farmiga, Alexandra Daddario, Crispin Glover, and Sebastian Stan.

Other editions (a selection):
Available in Hardcover, Paperback, Large print, Digital Audio, Audio CD, and ebook.

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