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We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 31, 2006
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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Visitors call seldom at Blackwood House. Taking tea at the scene of a multiple poisoning, with a suspected murderess as one's host, is a perilous business. For a start, the talk tends to turn to arsenic. "It happened in this very room, and we still have our dinner in here every night," explains Uncle Julian, continually rehearsing the details of the fatal family meal. "My sister made these this morning," says Merricat, politely proffering a plate of rum cakes, fresh from the poisoner's kitchen. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson's 1962 novel, is full of a macabre and sinister humor, and Merricat herself, its amiable narrator, is one of the great unhinged heroines of literature. "What place would be better for us than this?" she asks, of the neat, secluded realm she shares with her uncle and with her beloved older sister, Constance. "Who wants us, outside? The world is full of terrible people." Merricat has developed an idiosyncratic system of rules and protective magic, burying talismanic objects beneath the family estate, nailing them to trees, ritually revisiting them. She has made "a powerful taut web which never loosened, but held fast to guard us" against the distrust and hostility of neighboring villagers.
Or so she believes. But at last the magic fails. A stranger arrives--cousin Charles, with his eye on the Blackwood fortune. He disturbs the sisters' careful habits, installing himself at the head of the family table, unearthing Merricat's treasures, talking privately to Constance about "normal lives" and "boy friends." Unable to drive him away by either polite or occult means, Merricat adopts more desperate methods. The result is crisis and tragedy, the revelation of a terrible secret, the convergence of the villagers upon the house, and a spectacular unleashing of collective spite.
The sisters are propelled further into seclusion and solipsism, abandoning "time and the orderly pattern of our old days" in favor of an ever-narrowing circuit of ritual and shadow. They have themselves become talismans, to be alternately demonized and propitiated, darkly, with gifts. Jackson's novel emerges less as a study in eccentricity and more--like some of her other fictions--as a powerful critique of the anxious, ruthless processes involved in the maintenance of normality itself. "Poor strangers," says Merricat contentedly at last, studying trespassers from the darkness behind the barricaded Blackwood windows. "They have so much to be afraid of." --Sarah Waters --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Since the mysterious death of four family members, the superstitious Mary Katherine "Merricat" Blackwood, her ailing uncle Julian, and agoraphobic sister Constance have lived in a bizarre but contented state of isolation. But when cousin Charles arrives in search of the Blackwood fortune, a terrible family secret is revealed. Bernadette Dunne's reading is flawlessly paced and suspenseful. The voices she provides the cast of characters are spot on: precocious Merricat is haunted and increasingly desperate; Constance is doting but detached; Uncle Julian is both pleasantly dotty and utterly unnerving; and Charles is the conniving villain listeners will love to hate. A treat for fans of mystery and suspense.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
In a way she can probably be compared to Lain from the series "Serial Experiments Lain" except that Merricat (this books lead character) is pure paranoid selfishness, whereas Lain is troubled, unsure and weakly, if determinately, grasping for truths. The link is in their very fleeting sense of reality. Whilst Serial Experiments Lain explores what happens when the world surrounding you goes wrong, We Have Always Lived explores what happens when you go wrong yourself.
Traipsing alongside Merricat (the main character) it is impossible not to have a horrible feeling of unease. At first, the book reels you in by portraying Merricat's problems with the village she lives in, problems which are quite real. Only later, when what befell her family, becomes clear, do you start to see just how unhinged she really is in her interpretations and machinations.
Not many books has me reeling with horror over what might befall the characters on the next page. This book sure did.
Fun fact: when Shirley Jackson's first (horrific) story, The Lottery, appeared in the New Yorker in 1948, she received so much hate mail in response that the local postmaster stopped speaking to her; thus possibly proving that Twitter didn't create jerks, just enable them.
"We have always lived in the castle" is a very strange tale that navigates the thin line between (strange) reality and fantasy: it starts subtly and grows darker and darker, dragging you along. It is very well written and kept me interested and intrigued to the end, although it felt deeply uncomfortable at times. I found the characters spellbinding yet terrifying at the same time - I think the book has all the right ingredients one wants to find in this kind of novel, in just the right proportions.