Goodreads Review – Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin

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Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brilliant biography about the horrors and the joys in the life of (infamous) American writer, Shirley Jackson. From her stifling, and upper-middle class upbringing in California, to her life-long love /infatuation with her (abusive and unfaithful) husband, Stanley Hyman; this biography gives much needed context and insight to Jackson’s work.

I feel that Ruth Franklin tackles hard truths of Shirley Jackson’s life that Jackson herself would rather not acknowledge. Shirley Jackson’s ‘Savages’ and ‘Demons’ (often humourous stories about raising her children) hint at the cracks in her marriage (such as her husband’s preference ‘to look at girls’ as an acknowledgement of his pervasive infidelities, despite her opposition) but Ruth Franklin delves deeper into the matter, unpacking hard truths about Jackson’s relationships and declining mental and physical health over the years.

Ruth Franklin’s biography gives context and understanding to the recently released ‘The Letters of Shirley Jackson’ (2021, Random House), edited by Laurence Jackson Hyman (her son), and makes Jackson’s early love letters to her husband, Stanley Hyman that much more heart-wrenching.

A must-read for Shirley Jackson fans, and anyone seeking to understand her work in a broader social context.

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