Vintage Treasures: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Vintage Treasures: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle-small We Have Always Lived in the Castle back-small

It’s been at least 25 years since I read Shirley Jackson’s classic We Have Always Lived in the Castle. But it’s the kind of book that sticks in your mind.

I won’t say much about the plot, other than that it deals with the three surviving members of the Blackwood family: Merricat, a practicing witch, her elder sister Constance, who has not left their home for six years, and their deranged Uncle Julian. All three live in a large house, far from the neighboring village. Not so very long ago there were seven members of the family — until someone put a fatal dose of arsenic in the sugar bowl one night. Constance was acquitted of the murders and returned home, where her sister Merricat protects her from the sneers and curiosity of the townspeople. Their days pass in quiet isolation… until a new danger appears, in the shape of their mysterious cousin Charles.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is one of the most famous examples of “Southern Gothic,” and one of works that made Shirley Jackson famous. It was published three years before her death. There have been over a dozen editions, but my favorite is the 1963 paperback above, with the gorgeous and spooky cover by William Teason. You can usually find copies available online for under $10.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle was published in hardcover by The Viking Press in 1962, and reprinted in paperback by Popular Library in October 1963. The paperback is 173 pages, priced at sixty cents.

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Ty Johnston

Fantastic book. I tend to think The Haunting of Hill House is more of a shocker book than this one, comparitavely, but We Have Always Lived in the Castle definitely has a slow creepiness to it I’ve rarely seen done as well in other fiction.

I actually had the paperback version of the cover above, but unfortunately I accidentally sold it a few years ago. Dumb me.

Fletcher Vredenburgh

I don’t think I’ve read it in 25 years either. Thanks for bringing it up. It’s a splendidly haunting story with a mesmerizing narrator.

I think I’ll pick it up and give it a read during my vacation from Black Gate.

Fletcher Vredenburgh

Glad to.


Has anyone ever notice the similarity in plot with this, and the 1968 B horror movie Spider Baby?

Ty Johnston

> Aargh. How do you accidentally sell something?

It accidentally got mixed in with a box of books sold to a used books tore. Believe me, I’ve kicked myself more than once for that few bucks.

James McGlothlin

I read this for the first time a couple of years ago in an anthology. I think it was the two volume anthology that Peter Straub edited for New American Library.

For my money, Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” is her absolutely best one. I still use that story in teaching my introductory ethics courses.

[…] O’Neill posted a short piece on this book earlier this summer. It provided the impetus to discover if the book held up for me, […]

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