We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
by Shirley Jackson
1962 / 160 pages
read by Bernadette Dunne 5h 32m
rating 9

Reread – I do enjoy this book – I read it for a holiday challenge several years ago – this time for another reading group.  I wonder why I didn’t come across Jackson’s books in high school but …

The three remaining Blackwoods live rather reclusively in their large crumbling house.   There is an old ill and aging Uncle Julian,  an older teen girl named Constance and a younger teen girl named Mary Catherine or Merricat as she is affectionately known.   The reason they are alone is that the others who lived with them,  the mother, father, an aunt,  and a younger brother were murdered by poisoning with arsenic six years prior.

Constance was arrested and tried for the murder but there was insufficient evidence.  Since then they have lived either “in” or avoiding the day of the murder.  Constance won’t go outside the home area.  Merricat does all the errands and interacts with the townsfolk.  Julian stays home,  an invalid,  keeping copious notes about the day of the murders and the trial.   They have visitors from time to time but it’s always very awkward.

Then one day Cousin Charles comes to visit.  He’s obviously after some stash of money or valuables he “knows” they have stashed there.  Constance really wants to go with him or invite him to live there – something.  He does move in.

Told in first person by Merricat,  the suspense is built in because she, (as well as Constance and Julian)  obviously knows something the reader doesn’t.  Merricat wishes the whole town dead.

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!

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