Creepy kids are creepy, especially when they ought to know better...

In our house, this book is practically a sacred text (my wife uh-dores Shirley Jackson). My book club selected this as our read for May, and I was thrilled for the reread because this book surprises me every time.

Our narrator, Mary Katherine (or Merricat, as she's called) lives in her dilapidated house with her sister and uncle. The town shuns them after a terrible family tragedy that resulted in the death of most of her fmaily. But Merricat likes the little life she has, and she does what she needs to in order to protect all of them. And as you might expect, when her happy world is threatened, she gets to work.

I'm being vague to ensure you get the pleasure of Merricat and her story. If you're only familiar with Shirley Jackson through her short story "The Lottery", you need to get this novella. It's a great, atmospheric read -- very quick at 160ish pages, depending on your edition -- and the creepiness crawls over you.

Jackson's Merricat is so sweet and yet, so deeply, deeply deranged (for some fun parallel reading, get Sarah Schmidt's See What I Have Done as I loved the similar sort of narrators and atmosphere). Today's thrillers are swimming with unhinged heroines, but I think Merricat is their grandmother (this was originally published in 1962) and Jackson makes you agog at the horror without depicting anything gruesome.

First line: My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood.

Title: We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Author: Shirley Jackson
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin (1984)
Source: Personal copy
Reading Challenges: #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks


  1. Don't hate me but I've never read Jackson. Your review of this has intrigued me.

    1. Between us, she's not a favorite of mine -- I read her really just to make my wife happy. BUT in terms of mood/atmosphere and as the grandmother of creepy domestic horror, she's pretty fab.

  2. I can't say that I have read this one. There are a few of these types of novellas that I know I have read multiple times but can never really remember.

  3. Of Jackson's work, I've only read "The Lottery" (in high school, I think, and it creeped me out). I don't usually go for horror, but this does sound intriguing.

    1. It's less horror and more ... mood? Perhaps in the '60s it was horror but it's so tame now. The chilliness for me is in Merricat's delusional-ness. It's delightful!

  4. I love this book, and my friend has just started reading it which YAYYYYYYY. It is wonderfully creepy, everything I love Shirley Jackson for.

    1. I forgot how fun it was. And I really feel like so much of female horror figures come a little from Merricat.


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