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That the Blackwood family is (mostly) dead is established in the first paragraph of We Have Always Lived in the Castle. How that happened is the mystery at the center of a novel that finds plenty to fear—not only in the possibility of murder, but also in the way the Blackwoods’ gossiping neighbors react to the surviving sisters, Mary Katherine and Constance. TIME named Castle one of the top 10 works of fiction in 1962, praising it for “the ironic miracle of convincing the reader that a house inhabited by a lunatic, a poisoner, and a pyromaniac is a world more rich in sympathy, love, and subtlety than the real world outside.” Thanks to “The Lottery” and The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson’s genius was already recognized by the time this concise tale—narrated in the distinctive, eerie voice of “Merricat”—confirmed her particular talent for sprinkling a dose of the gothic occult on top of what lurks inside ordinary hearts. For its portrait of the latter, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is an enduring classic that transcends its genre. —Lily Rothman

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