Goodreads Review — The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

Rich people hide inside their mansion, isolated from the peasant rabble, and there they sit, surrounded by the luxury of generational wealth, waiting for the end of the world…

I re-read this one at the beginning of the pandemic when everyone was stockpiling groceries and TP… and had to laugh when I came to the part in the novel when the characters burn all the books in the library only to fill their shelves with groceries and TP.

Things change, the more they remain the same…

The Sundial is a dark look at human nature, told through the eyes of Shirley Jackson, and one familiar with her personal history as an affluent West Coast debutant-turned bohemian New Yorker transplanted to rural Vermont will understand Jackson’s casting of the villagers as always ‘other’ — a slightly savage force to be endured, while the highly diverse and at times, hilariously misfit, collection of wealthy characters huddled together inside the mansion maintain their rich comforts… even one crowning themselves as leader in the new world.

The darkly hilarious portrayals of wealth and privilege at the expense of the working class are what make Jackson’s work so powerful; this is beyond a preapocalyptic prepping story, this is a story of the self-declared chosen few and their entitlement, which remains truly terrifying.

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and other artifacts, including drawings and sketches spans Shirley Jackson’s life (1916 – 1965); and includes some unpublished and uncollected stories, and work from her early period during the war, as well as her lectures on writing in as given to college students her final years.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

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

Available on Amazon

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.


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