Thursday Quotables: We Have Always Lived in the Castle


Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!
 We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
(published 1962)

One passage really isn’t enough to sum up the wonderful oddity and weirdness of this book – so I’ll include a few select quotes this week:

“It was a fine morning,” Uncle Julian said, his voice going on and on, “a fine bright morning, and none of them knew it was their last. She was downstairs first, my niece Constance. I woke up and heard her moving in the kitchen – I slept upstairs then, I could still go upstairs, and I slept with my wife in our room – and I thought, this is a fine morning, never dreaming then that it was their last.”


I decided that I would choose three powerful words, words of strong protection, and so long as these great words were never spoken aloud no change would come. I wrote the first word – melody – in the apricot jam on my toast with the handle of a spoon and then put the toast in my mouth and ate it very quickly. I was one-third safe.

And one more:

“The Blackwoods always did set a fine table.” That was Mrs. Donell, speaking clearly from somewhere behind me, and someone giggled and someone else said “Shh.” I never turned; it was enough to feel them all there in back of me without looking into their flat grey faces with the hating eyes. I wish you were all dead, I thought, and longed to say it out loud. Constance said, “Never let them see that you care,” and “If you pay any attention they’ll only get worse,” and probably it was true, but I wished they were dead. I would have liked to come into the grocery some morning and see them all, even the Elberts and the children, lying there crying with the pain and dying. I would then help myself to groceries, I thought, stepping over their bodies, taking whatever I fancied from the shelves, and go home, with perhaps a kick for Mrs. Donell while she lay there. I was never sorry when I had thoughts like this; I only wished they would come true. “It’s wrong to hate them,” Constance said, “it only weakens you,” but I hated them anyway, and wondered why it had been worth while creating them in the first place.

I’m listening to this one on audiobook, and I can’t even begin to tell you how awesomely creepy the narration is. Bernadette Dunne does a brilliant job of shifting voices for the different characters, and the first-person voice especially comes across as an ever-so-slightly unhinged young girl. I listen to books while I drive, and since I started We Have Always Lived in the Castle, I find myself taking the long way home.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (, if you’d be so kind!
  • Leave your link in the comments — or, if you have a quote to share but not a blog post, you can leave your quote in the comments too!
  • Visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

8 thoughts on “Thursday Quotables: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

  1. You know, I’ve thought long whether I want to read this story by Shirley Jackson and I still can’t make up my mind. Readers seems never to agree whether this story goes too far or not. It does sound a bit disturbing from your snippets.
    But I suppose you’re reccomanding it 😉

    Still doing NaNo and starting to leg behind. Well, I expected it, so I won’t complain.
    I’m also doing a 30 Day Meme on my blog for NaNo. If anyone feels like having a look. Today’s post is about my favourite fictional characters.

    • I guess the advantage I had is that I really knew nothing about this book before I started it. I’m not sure if I’d love it as much just reading the printed version. There’s something so delicious about the narrator’s intonations that gives the entire thing a really sinister and creepy tone. So yes, I’m recommending it — especially the audiobook.

      • I used to love listening to audio books while I drove, but I don’t need to any more for work so I mainly listen to them walking about town (esp non fiction), or sometimes to get to sleep at night…although I don’t think this one would be v relaxing!! I do miss them, they’re wonderful for keeping your concentration at top notch on a long trip. This sounds marvellously creepy, and I’ve noticed a few of my fellow bloggers raving about this book and another, The Haunting Of Hill House I think.

        • I’ve gotten really hooked on audiobooks in the car (I drive back and forth to work each day), and I listen too while I go out for walks on the weekends. I find that I walk a lot further and put in more time exercising while I’m in the middle of a good audiobook, since I always want to hear just a little bit more. 🙂

          • I do think I walk a bit faster although it may depend on what I’m listening to, rather like music. But walking further…I’ll have to try that. And I must go for walks, rather than just running all my errands on foot…which is a lot, but I need to walk more. So thanks for the tip! (Although I’d avoid Shirley Jackson if you’re walking…in the woods…alone…)

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