Customer Reviews


55 Reviews
5 star:
 (33)
4 star:
 (15)
3 star:
 (4)
2 star:
 (3)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Underlyingly Unsettling
Even the start of We Have Always Lived in the Castle is quite a chilling one told by the youngest daughter of the Blackwood family Merricat (from Mary Katherine) as she tells us that in a crumbling old building, we presume a castle, surrounded by woodland live her, her sister and her aging Uncle Julian (who seems to have Alzheimer's and even believes Merricat is dead) as...
Published on 3 Nov. 2009 by Simon Savidge Reads

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars DisaPPOINTED
THIS BOOK STARTS IN AN INTRIGUING WAY BUT THEN GOES NO where. ONE waits for the story to unfold but is disappointed
Published 3 months ago by Dr J Woods


‹ Previous | 1 26 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Underlyingly Unsettling, 3 Nov. 2009
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Modern Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
Even the start of We Have Always Lived in the Castle is quite a chilling one told by the youngest daughter of the Blackwood family Merricat (from Mary Katherine) as she tells us that in a crumbling old building, we presume a castle, surrounded by woodland live her, her sister and her aging Uncle Julian (who seems to have Alzheimer's and even believes Merricat is dead) as outcasts from the nearby village. In fact in the opening chapters we see how the village treat her like some kind of leper, they will chide and tease her but they won't come near her for fear of her family name and past.

I won't give too much away about the book suffice to say there is a great mystery around her families death and one that as you read along you gain more snippets into until you find out one shocking twist which did actually make me let out a small gasp. The sinister tone of the book is underlying for most of the book and in some ways becomes much darker on the arrival of their cousin Charles who Merricat takes and instant dislike to before things come to a rather dark and dramatic head. A haunting novel that build slowly and yet will stay with you long after you finish it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gothic masterpiece, 10 Oct. 2009
By 
J. H. Bretts "jerard1" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Modern Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
Constance, her teenage sister Merrycat, and their Uncle Julian (an unforgettable character) live like hermits in an old New England house, shunned by their small town neighbours.Constance was acquited of poisoning her parents, brother and aunt and she will not leave the house and its grounds. Then, one day, cousin Charles arrives, precipitating terrible events.This is a gripping classic of American gothic horror, beautifully written and psychologically acute. This new edition has a very illuminating afterword by Joyce Carol Oates.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourites, 15 Mar. 2010
This book is one of those rare gems that seems to transport you to another world effortlessly. Almost as soon as I began to read it I found myself walking home with Merricat, the eyes of the hateful town upon her. I have seldom been so absorbed by a book. Especially one which does not appear to be popular although the reason for this escapes me entirely.

I am always loathe to mention too much detail in a story when reviewing it for obvious reasons however I would like to include some in this review in order to do the book justice.

At the beginning of the book we meet Mary Katherine Blackwood (known by her family as Merricat) a strange, dark, daydreaming, 18 year old girl who lives with the remaining members of her family in an old house on the outskirts of town. From the outset of the book it is obvious the townsfolk hate the Blackwood family but it is not fully explained why. Apart from Merricat no-one else from the family ever ventures outside.

Six years before the beginning of the book most of Merricat's family were murdered and the culprit was never brought to justice. The murders happened in the same house they live in now which only adds to the intriguing and unsettling nature of the story. Although the murders are not exactly central to the story itself they are always there in the back of your mind...could one of the survivors have been the killer? It's a powerful question that keeps you turning the pages.

The four central characters are wonderfully written out although not always likeable. The character of Charles, the unwelcome cousin, is delightfully repulsive and devious. No-one in the family likes him except for Constance who seems unable to think badly of him, at least initially. Constance herself is a troubled character; forced by circumstance to become the head of the family at the young age of 22 has taken it's toll on her but she undoubtedly loves her family very much especially Merricat. Uncle Julian is a survivor of the murder attempt but it has left him wheelchair bound and suffering from what appears to be the onset of dementia. He is often confused but also has remarkably lucid moments. There is a surprising amount of humour in the book most of which comes from Julian. He is brilliantly irreverent and always speaks his mind.

The first part of the book focusses mainly on the day to day life of the Blackwood family and their relationship with the townspeople and each other. The middle of the book regards the arrival of cousin Charles which badly upsets the equilibrium of the house, and sets in motion the disastrous events that shape the end of the story, which I will not give away!

One of the most interesting parts for me, besides the internal workings of Merricat's mind, is to see a story from the outcasts point of view rather than the frightened townsfolk. It put me in mind a little of stories like 'To Kill A Mockingbird' and the film 'The Burbs' both of which contain social outcasts as main characters with the main difference that these stories focus on the point of view of the outsiders looking in as opposed to the hermits looking out.

The story ends in an unusual way which I wasn't quite expecting. Once I had thought about it for a while I decided I liked the ending. Haven't we all been in a situation where we would love to shut out the outside world even for a short while? I know I have and this book speaks to that part of me.

Highly recommended, it has become a favourite of mine
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Gothic Read, 1 Nov. 2007
By 
kehs (Hertfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a satisfyingly macabre and sinister book. The family that live in the castle are supposedly a murderous bunch, and are definitely not your average neighbours. Mary Katherine Blackwood lives in an isolated house with her sister and their Uncle. The rest of their family died after being fed sugar laced with arsenic. It's Mary Katherine who tells their tale and the reader will soon be entranced by what she has to say, particularly in the events that follow the unwelcome stay of a cousin. A fantastic gothic read, full of humour and a little sadness too. I'll definitely be reading more by this author.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American Gothic at its most effective, 6 Jun. 2010
By 
Sarah A. Brown (Cambridge) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Modern Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
The wonderfully arresting first paragraph gripped me straight away. The novel is intensely controlled, perfectly, though sparely, written, and somehow - like its narrator - not quite sane. It draws the reader irresistibly into the world of a very unusual girl, and the rest of her damaged family. The narrating voice is utterly strange and memorable.

In her interesting afterword to the Penguin edition Joyce Carol Oates discusses the association between the central character, `Merricat', and witchcraft. I interpreted the narrator's intensely superstitious attitude, her obsessive use of `magic' tokens and rituals rather differently, as the reflection of an obsessive and compulsive personality who treats life like a board game where only she knows the rules.

There is much that is sly and unexpected in the novel. Despite the ghastly tragedy which lies behind the family, there is something celebratory about the way the life of this very strange household is depicted, its meals, its gracious surroundings. Normal people begin to seem like irritating intruders to us as well as to the characters.

Although I responded to `We Have Always Lived in the Castle' rather less emotionally than some of the other reviewers, I found it immensely powerful, and thought it was even better than `The Haunting of Hill House'.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We Have Always Lived In The Castle, 22 Jan. 2011
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is, without doubt, one of my favourite books of all time. From the brilliant opening line, you are totally wrapped in Merricat's bizarre and original world. As a narrator, she is sublime - leading you on into her mind and thoughts - introducing you to the remains of her family that have not been poisoned at the lunch her Uncle spends his time writing about. From the start the world is skewed - to her Uncle, Merricat is not there at all, and both he and Merricat turn to her sister, Constance, for nourishment and care. Constance was accused of the murder of her family, but found innocent, and the town treat Merricat and Constance as oddities to be treated with aggression and fear. Merricat and Constance retreat into their home, reclusive until the sudden appearance of a cousin who brings about sudden changes and who threatens Merricat's world. Their retreat mirrors Shirly Jackson herself - a depressive, obese alchoholic who feared going outside and who fought with her own neighbours, giving glorious expression to her fears and obsessions through her characters. Reading about Shirley Jackson, it seems the residents of her small town were not very happy when they read this book and I can understand why, but to produce such a wonderful work from private anguish is surely the work of a genius. It is wonderful to see this book not only re-released, but also released on kindle, along with some other works by the author. Could we have them all re-released with such care please? The author, and her readers, deserve it and, if you have not yet read this book, then I am extremely jealous.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suspenseful, 15 Nov. 2010
By 
This review is from: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Modern Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
'My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance ... Everyone else in my family is dead.'
A chilling start to this short, suspenseful novella that unfolds slowly with hints that strange as the Blackwood sisters are, we don't know the half of it.
Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea?
Oh, no, said Merricat, you'll poison me.'
That's what the local children chant and we know early on that Constance has been accquitted of the murder of most of her family. Hard to write more without giving too much away but it builds up to a climax reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's horrific story The Lottery.
She doesn't give you all the answers, though ... and you're left wondering about how strange Merricat was before that night when everybody died, and what was her relationship with her shadowy - but unpleasant-sounding - parents?
The house is a character in its own right, so wonderfully described that you can see it, the sparkling china and silver, the glowing preserves, taste Connie's wonderful cooking. Do you take sugar?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intense read and creepy tale, 13 Aug. 2008
By 
Annabel Gaskell "gaskella2" (Nr Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
A creepy tale of a big house where the two Blackwood sisters, Constance and Merricat, live with their old uncle. The local villagers treat them with suspicion and hate, after six of the Blackwood family died one night from poisoning. Constance was tried and found innocent. The sisters and Uncle Julian try to live quietly in their mausoleum; Constance tends the garden, Uncle Julian sees to his papers, and the beloved Merricat patrols and protects the estate with ritual and amulets. However, one day cousin Charles arrives - and life will never be the same after that.
This short novel is an excellent exercise in paranoia, the whole 'did she didn't she' questio over the poisoning, the villagers' suspicion (and jealousy, for the Blackwoods are not short of a penny, although they don't flaunt it at all), and then the catalyst that arrives to upset everything.
A very intense read and beautifully crafted tale.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unsettling and Compelling Read, 25 April 2014
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Modern Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
Eighteen-year-old Mary Katherine, known to her family as Merricat, lives with her older sister, Constance, and their ailing Uncle Julian, in the Blackwood family home. These three characters are the only surviving members of the wealthy Blackwood family; the remainder were all poisoned six years before by arsenic which had been mixed into the sugar bowl. Merricat, who was twelve at the time of the poisoning, had been sent to bed in disgrace; Uncle Julian took only a little sugar and, after being terribly ill, just managed to survive; Constance, who does not take sugar, was charged with the murders, but was acquitted. (No spoilers, we learn all of this early on in the novel). Now the three of them live practically as recluses in the large family house set in the middle of the New England woods, Merricat being the only one able to venture down to the village to buy groceries and to change the library books. However, on her twice-weekly shopping trips, Merricat is taunted by the villagers and their children tease her with a nasty rhyme:

"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!"

Merricat, who informs us that the villagers have always hated the Blackwoods and who, with her obsessive compulsive behaviour finds it extremely difficult to to make the journey into the village, wishes they would all die a terrible, painful death and then, she tells us, she would gladly walk over their dying bodies. No sooner has Merricat recovered from her latest visit to the village, when her cousin Charles arrives at the Blackwood home and, wheedling his way into Constance's affections, he tries to take charge of the house and the substantial amount of family money kept in the safe. He also rather rashly tries to convince Constance that Uncle Julian would be better off in a nursing home and that Merricat needs to be taken in hand - which, we learn as we read on, is a rather big mistake...

Narrated throughout by Merricat, Shirley Jackson's novel, which was first published in 1962 and described by Joyce Carol Oates as a masterpiece of Gothic suspense, is a wonderfully unsettling story. Merricat is a brilliant and oddly fascinating creation who, disconcertingly, is both childlike and treacherous and, of course, unreliable. I started and finished this novel in one absorbed sitting, totally drawn into the Blackwoods' strange family life by the narrator's very compelling voice. Recommended.

4.5 Stars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cold Comfort Farm gone glitteringly obsidian, 16 Oct. 2013
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a chillingly wonderful short book, at one and the same time mordantly funny, satisfyingly weird, and quite disturbing

I was pointed in its direction by fellow reviewer, FictionFan, who thought it would touch my `like a well written something on the edge of ODD' muscle.

Shirley Jackson was a gifted horror and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night writer whose first writing was published in 1949. By 1965 she was dead. It's no surprise to find she had a slightly troubled personal history, probably involving issues around food.

Her books (and this is by all accounts typical) are set in small town America, and though the protagonists may be distinctly disturbing and oddball - uncomfortable misfits, it is also clear that Jackson has sympathies with her dysfunctional main characters, and sees small-town, insular, intolerant mentality as being as - if not more - reprehensible, than the fragile, disturbed, central character.

In We Have Always Lives in the Castle, the central characters are two sisters Constance, and the narrator, Mary Catherine - Merricat. Indeed, Merricat is particularly cat like, and her closest companion IS her cat Jonas. And at times, she is a particularly merry cat, in her playfulness, her whimsicality, her fey, wild child appreciation of nature. She reminded me of an indelibly darker, deeply disturbed cousin to Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm's Elfine - but Jackson's novel has no Flora, creature of higher reason, to shed light into the darkness.

Constance, and Merricat live in dark and disturbing isolation on the edge of their community, shunned and feared by the village folk, and shunning and fearing of them, in return

Perhaps the best way of giving a flavour of Jackson's deliciously oddball, creepy imagination, and her economy of writing, is the opening paragraph:

"My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and amanita phalloides, the death-cap mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead."

Our unreliable narrator Merricat with her strange rituals is clearly unhinged, quite seriously so - but Jackson's skill and charm is to make this fragile, possibly deranged and even dangerous wild child also someone whom we sympathise with - and even, curiously, find immensely charming

The plot of the book involves the uncovering of a murder-fest which took place some years before, which Constance was accused and acquitted of, a weird uncle, a visiting cousin, some rubbernecking neighbours - and much more, which i will not say, for fear of spoilers. Even though it is the journey of the book which is its real delight, not any uncoverings. Savour every single step!

I must admit that the third sentence of the book, the werewolf one, hooked me immediately by the dark wit and unexpected imagination of the writer, so succinctly expressed, and turning on two phrases `with any luck at all' and `'I have had to be content with what I had'

I have now ordered Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Horror) Well, the nights are drawing in, and horror this stylish can't be resisted!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 26 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Modern Classics)
We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Modern Classics) by Shirley Jackson (Mass Market Paperback - 1 Oct. 2009)
£6.74
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews