WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE by Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Released: October 31, 2006 (First published in 1962)
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★★


Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate. 

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.


WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE is a Gothic fiction classic by Shirley Jackson, first published in 1962. Something I love about Jackson’s writing is that I’m never sure if there are paranormal forces at work or not. You get an eerie feeling that something unnatural must be going on – things are just too weird – or maybe not?

This is the story of the surviving members of the Blackwood family, told from the point of view of younger sister Merricat. The whole “sugar bowl” event made them outcasts to the rest of the town. Merricat, older sister Constance, and old Uncle Julian spend their days isolated in the family estate. Through Julian’s ramblings, we learn bits and pieces of what happened to the rest of the family.

This book is a great example of quiet horror – character driven, and leaving the reader with a lot to think about. It wasn’t until the end when I could look at the big picture and see how disturbing the Blackwood situation was. Chilling.

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12 thoughts on “WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE by Shirley Jackson

  1. I haven’t read this one, though I’ve certainly known about it. Maybe I’ll read Jackson soon. Continuing on your Gothic quest…..

  2. I really enjoyed reading this book; very atmospheric! Now reading your review has made me want to read the rest of her books.

  3. I think quiet horror is the perfect way to describe Jackson’s writing. There’s not that jumps out and goes boo but there’s that building sense of unease that is there throughout the book. I thought I had read this one but after reading the blurb I’m quite sure I haven’t. I’m looking forward to reading it now!

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