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Publisher's Summary

Six years after four family members died of arsenic poisoning, the three remaining Blackwoods—elder, agoraphobic sister Constance; wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian; and 18-year-old Mary Katherine, or, Merricat—live together in pleasant isolation. Merricat has developed an idiosyncratic system of rules and protective magic to guard the estate against intrusions from hostile villagers. But one day a stranger arrives—cousin Charles, with his eye on the Blackwood fortune—and manages to penetrate into their carefully shielded lives. Unable to drive him away by either polite or occult means, Merricat adopts more desperate methods, resulting in crisis, tragedy, and the revelation of a terrible secret.
©1962 Shirley Jackson (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

“At certain moments, quietly, in quick, subtle transitions of tone, Miss Jackson can summon up stark terror, make your blood chill and your scalp prickle....To all the classic paraphernalia of the spook story, she adds a touch of Freud….” (New York Times Book Review)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By jaspersu on 10-28-12

The narration changed my interpretation

I first read this book as a kid and at the time identified with the teenage Mary Katherine, without questioning her as an "unreliable narrator." When I got the audiobook all these years later, I thought it would be fun to revisit a story I had liked. I was surprised at how Bernadette Dunne voiced the narrator character. She has a kind of tremor of fear in her voice right from the start. This isn't the quirky imaginative heroine who faces down the hateful townfolk and her encroaching cousin that I remember: this is a phobic young woman who tries to use to ritual to try to control her world, who is disturbed and disturbing!

After listening to this recording, I found myself questioning my earlier interpretation of the whole story. Though Mary Katherine calls her cousin Charles a ghost, this one isn't a ghost story. Though Mary Katherine believes in magic, and tries to create magic protection for herself, this one isn't a supernatural story. Still, the further the story goes, the further it is from reality. The ending is what I remembered, but I don't remember finding it so strange and unbelievable. This is a good thing, to me. There is so much more to think about and wonder about after hearing the recording.

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91 of 94 people found this review helpful


By Janice on 10-25-13

Eloquently disturbing

Completely defies definition. Not really a thriller, mystery or horror story. No violence or gore, nothing overtly supernatural, and yet from the very beginning you feel unsettled, disturbed. You know something is just wrong, but have no choice but to take the grand tour of the Blackwood’s home and life with Merricat as your tour guide. No other perspective is provided, and as the tour progresses you kind of want to escape, but remain mesmerized in spite of yourself (like one guest who comes to tea uninvited). The family fears the outside world, the villagers fear the family, and the reader watches transfixed as inevitable forces ignite those fears into horrible actions/reactions. Humans really are the scariest of all creatures. Perfectly read by Bernadette Dunne.

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45 of 48 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Kaggy on 01-23-17

An oppressive dream - or is it real?

Why do the villagers hate the Blackwoods? Why does Constance never go out? Why was the sugarbowl washed out? This is a story full of mystery and you can never be sure what is real or imagined. Is Merrycat alive? How old are the sisters? What is Charles really up to?
I will need to read this again just to try and get a handle on the story but I suspect I will just encounter more mystery.
This is a stunning piece of American Gothic and has been perfectly narrated by Bernadette Dunne.
This is for lovers of magical writing that gives us more questions than answers and takes you into a world you will not forget.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful


By marie on 12-24-12

Dreadful- in a good way

So well done listening to it made me feel close to a panic attack. A brillantly realised portrait of a paranoid state.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Blair on 09-10-17

Lonely but beautiful

Not sure why people call it creepy, maybe my level of creepy is higher than others. It's a lovely sad little story that is filled with melancholy. A nice short piece of work I listened too while painting a mural. 10/10 would recommend for any style of literary fan

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