Retro Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

This is one of my all-time favorite reads. So much creeping dread.

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson

Published September 1962

Dark Fiction  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon 

Source: Library Borrow
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. 

My 2 Cents For Free!

I listened to this classic Shirley Jackson story in its unabridged audiobook format and the narrator did a terrific job bringing the story of Merricat and the remaining members of her family to life, her voice drips with atmosphere of the gothic drama. If you’re an audiobook fan and appreciate a dread-filled slightly creepy family drama I highly recommend checking this one out. I downloaded my copy from local library via Overdrive.

I don’t want to give too much away because this is one of those character driven, slow burning, suspenseful stories that slowly reveals itself and is one you should really experience for yourself without knowing too much about its plot. When the story opens a young lady named Mary Katherine (Merricat) Blackwood is making her way through the village and you instantly know things are off-kilter. She is buying necessities for a sister who will not leave the house and is subjected to taunts, insults and/or fear from nearly all she encounters. 

She lives a lonely existence with her agoraphobic sister Constance and their ailing Uncle Julian. Merricat spends her time burying things, following her own strict rules to keep safe and helping Constance keep their home spotless. The rest of their family is dead. I’m not telling you how or why it happened (actually I’m still unclear about the why but I think I have it figured out). They are perfectly content and set in their routines despite their seclusion but it all gets screwed up when a greedy male cousin arrives and stirs up no end of trouble for the little family teetering on the edge of sanity. 

As little details are revealed through Merricat I really felt for her and understood her bouts of angry thoughts aimed at her neighbors, despite the fact that she seems to be quite happy to be the town outcast. She loves her kitty and her sister and they are all she seems to need in her world. The two however are keepers of dark secrets but I still felt for them to the very end.

Filled with darkness and dread this isn’t a horror novel but the writing haunted me. It was written way back in 1962 but feels timeless and I highly recommend it. 



  1. It's been a long time since I read this book, but I remember really liking it. Probably because of Merricat. :)

  2. That sounds really good. It's new to me but I could see myself enjoying this.

  3. I love Shirley Jackson's prose in general, and I think this story is fabulous. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  4. I don't think I've ever read this, which is a shame. I need to remedy that!

  5. I was certain I read this years ago but based on the description here, I don't think I actually have!

  6. I still haven't read this. I want to!


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