This is one of the oddest, most haunting books I have ever read. Merricat Blackwood and her sister Constance live with their aged Uncle Julian in a mansion on the outskirts of a small New England town. The villagers keep their distance from the Blackwood family, ever since the day, five or six years earlier, when almost the entire Blackwood family was poisoned at lunch and died. Merricat, Constance and Uncle Julian are the only survivors of that day and are regarded with suspicion and hatred by the village. Constance is terrified to leave the house. Uncle Julian is sinking into forgetfulness. Merricat brings in supplies and protects her home with a complex set of charms and rituals.
When a long-lost cousin turns up one day, he sets into motion an uncovering of the truth of what happened to the Blackwood family, and a terrible retribution on the part of the villagers.
Telling the facts of the story, however, doesn't do justice to the beauty of the writing, and to the character of Merricat Blackwood, who is unforgettable. I, unfortunately, had read a review that spoiled a couple of key details for me before I read the book, so I won't reveal any more about the story. If you enjoy creepy, off-beat stories, this is a terrific one, and a quick read.
This is one of those "gotcha" books that hook you until the end. When I read a book like this I always say "if only I had a million bucks to produce this movie!" Shirley Jackson, thanks for a never-to-be-forgotten story!
I really enjoyed this hauntingly strange book. The characters were strong, and their arrested development after the incident six years prior tot he book's opening was quite fascinating. Though not terribly unpredictable, it was thoroughly intriguing and well-written. The rather Gothic atmosphere was well-maintained from the very first to the very last page. Though brief (under 220 pages), this was powerful and riveting. I had read Jackson's short story, "The Lottery," in high school, and after finishing this, I am even more curious about her other works.
Shirley Jackson always leaves you feeling haunted. This is a story about the Blackwoods who have been accused and acquitted of the murder of their family by arsenic. They live in this huge house, trying to stay away from the villagers until cousin Charles appears - trouble. Shirley Jackson's books are always understated, but always leave me up at night wondering and thinking. They're just so eerie.
Wonderfully neurotic, disturbing read. It's creepy, it's funny, it's believable. There's nothing supernatural, but there is gothic feel, and madness, and the dreadful, insurmountable feel of inertia that so fits American rural settings. Jackson also makes the absolutely crazy situation and lifestyle the main characters set up -- alluring.
I want to say it was set in the South, because I get that same sense as one gets in Faulkner, or in Tennessee Williams plays, where no matter what weather you're sitting in, you feel hot, oppressed, and lethargic.
I loved this book. I don't believe I've ever read anything like it. It managed to be a creepy horror without the horror. The story and characters were wonderful. There really is a certain quality to older books you just to see too often these days. I can't explain what it is exactly, but this novel definitely had it. I highly recommend this quick little read for a rainy afternoon. This was the first book I've read by Shirley Jackson, but it won't be the last
Better with every reading.
This book is sweet and scary at the same time.
One of the greatest psychological horror stories ever written.
I have had this book in my to be read pile for quite a while. I was excited to finally read it. The story was a bit slow but does a good job of showing the cruelty of a mob and the isolation of those with mental illness.
I listened to this on audiobook and the audiobook was well done. The narrator does an excellent job with emotion and different character voices.
Merricat, her sister Constance, and her Uncle Julian live in isolation on the Blackwood estate. The Blackwoods are shunned after an incident with arsenic in a sugar bowl left four of the Blackwoods dead. Constance was accused of the murder but has since been acquitted. However the town continues to scorn them. Merricat and Constance could care less, living a calm and quiet life. That is until their cousin Charles shows up and drags the Blackwoods back into the spotlight.
This was an interesting book but fairly slow and with a story that doesn't really wrap up at the end. The majority of the characters have some sort of mental illness going on. Merricat is a sociopath and wishes everyone in the village dead all the time despite being very loyal and protective of her sister. She also practices some sympathetic magic and does odd quirky things believing that they will keep her and Constance stay safe. Uncle Julian survived the poisoning but hasn't been right since constantly forgetting who is alive and dead and what he is doing.
Constance is strangely passive and agoraphobic. Constance can never make herself leave the house or garden because of this phobia. She is also strangely accepting of Merricat's strange sociopathic behavior and goes out of her way to provide a loving and safe environment for Merricat.
As you can imagine with their strangeness they are strongly persecuted in the small New England town they live in. Parts of this book really show the vileness of humanity and how cruel a mob of humans can become.
The plot was a bit unfinished feeling. Some bad things happen to Merricat and Constance but they both take the events in stride, only changing their routines in small ways with no thought to the future. They both seem perfectly happy to eke out a living in isolation. There is really no end to the story, it just stops.
Overall this was an okay story. It's a bit slow and doesn't really have much of a plot per say. It does show an interesting look at small town New England life and how people who were different were persecuted in very harsh ways. Additionally it shows the different aspects to a sociopath's personality; Merricat is both loving and terrifying. It's a quick read, so while I wouldn't necessarily recommend it it's not a bad read. If it sounds interesting to you give it a try, it's well enough written if a bit slow.
Assigning stars to Shirley Jackson's classic dark Gothic novel feels like a hopelessly presumptuous exercise. We don't have star ratings for hurricanes, volcanoes or earthquakes and, like those forces of nature, "We Have Always Lived ..." doesn't need our feedback. It just "is" -- and doesn't care who gets hurt in the process.
Before she succumbed to her own demons, at the age of only 49, Shirley Jackson created a Most Perfect Thing: the twisted love-child of "House of the Seven Gables" and "Cold Comfort Farm" (if the majority of the Starkadders had been buried in shallow graves behind the woodshed). "We Have Always Lived ..." is a dazzling little gem of unreliable narration, dark psychology (both individual and herd), and terrifying, vivid imagery. It is also very, very funny.
Shirley Jackson has a creepy, Gothic tale of two twisted sisters. Just great.
One of the best psychological horror stories ever written. "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." ...quote from Amazon.com
Absolutely LOVED it!!!!!!!!
In about 150 pages our author creates more psychological havoc than Stephen King ever thought of doing in 1,100 (pages). A murdered family. Survivors: two sisters and a senile uncle. Did sister number one poison them all? Or was it sister number two, who tells this tale but seems to be the real nut job? Maybe it was really the loony uncle. Each seems to be protecting the others, each in a demented manner.
A fun read. The story mostly revolves around two sisters, Merricat and Constance, who are insane in their own ways. Murder and mayhem and family ties.
What a captivating story that was written really well. I think that the characters were well fleshed out and added so much to the story line. Did feel at times that I had maybe missed a detail or two that would have helped the story.