Goodreads Book Review — Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson

Cover of Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson

Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


True psychological horror. The darkness behind suburban affluence is apparent in Hangsaman, as is the privilege behind seemingly homogenous gated communities. The restraints of family and domesticity, loss of identity and self are threaded throughout.

For fans of Shirley Jackson – some of her short stories make reappearances here. Those familiar with Jackson and know her short stories, biography, and ‘The Birds Nest’ (Lizzy) will see many familiar elements skillfully interwoven in this chilling coming of age story about 17 year old Natalie going off to college; which strangely echoes Bennington, where Jackson’s own husband works —
and where terrible things happen.

Told at times through such a close and perspective the events unfolding around Natalie may be unclear, but key elements of her life (such as a father/husband figure openly carrying out an extramarital relationship with a neighbour at a garden party while her mother is inside the house and that same mother’s own mental health issues) echo the events in Jackson’s personal life.

One ‘complaint’ is that this novel at times feels like three disparate novellas stuck together; with a distinct part one, two, and three, carrying through the same main character through a disconcerting change in settings and surrounding action with each part being able to stand on its own. Honestly, the opening scenes of the garden party are worth reading as an accompaniment to Jackson’s own life, and the continuing adventures of Natalie going to school carry the reader further into psychological distress.

Themes of darkness, seeking self, and identity throughout. TRIGGER WARNING SA.

You can see my reviews at Goodreads.com & be sure to visit my Goodreads Author Page

Goodreads Review — Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson’s
‘Let Me Tell You’

Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Shirley Jackson is an American writer, now best known for ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ (as seen on Netflix), the book ‘The Birdcage’ (inspiring the movie ‘Lizzy’) as well as being the subject of the novel ‘Shirley’ (by Susan Scarf Merrell) and the subsequent Netflix show.

Previously overlooked for decades (in spite of the success of ‘The Lottery’), Shirley Jackson seems to have crept into contemporary popular culture.

‘Let Me Tell You’ helps put Shirley Jackson, and her work, in a broader context.

Released in 2015, this compilation of short stories, essays, and other artifacts, including drawings and sketches spans Shirley Jackson’s life (1916 – 1965); and includes some unpublished and uncollected stories, and work from her early period during the war, as well as her lectures on writing in as given to college students her final years.

For the truly devoted Jackson aficionado, this collection offers work you might have not otherwise come across; and for the newcomer to all things Shirley Jackson, it offers very readable stories and essays that span styles and decades – from the warm-hearted family slice of life stories, ‘Honestly Mother’ and ‘Questions I Wish I’d Never Asked’ (about the search for resolution regarding a frozen garden hose), to the eerily unsettling ‘Paranoia’ and ‘Daughter, Come Home’ – this collection brings together Jackson’s mastery of humour, and psychological terror – the fears of identity, social pressure, and relationships – set across quiet suburbs and city blocks.

Edited by her children, Laurence (‘Laurie’ of Savages) Jackson Hyman and Sarah Hyman Dewitt (‘Sally’ of the same), with a forward by literary critic and biographer Ruth Franklin, this collection of short stories brings new insight into the work of Shirley Jackson. I highly recommend it to fans of ‘Savages’ and those familiar with Jackson’s biography.

You can see my reviews at Goodreads.com & be sure to visit my Goodreads Author Page