Shirley Jackson: Four Novels of the 1940s & 50s

Edited by Ruth Franklin. Library of America, $40 (850p) ISBN 978-1-59853-670-6
Admirers of Shirley Jackson (1916–1965) will welcome this collection of her first four novels. The Road Through the Wall (1948) satirizes suburban life, slowly revealing the petty jealousies and casual cruelty of the residents of a “nice” neighborhood of a California town. Hangsaman (1951) uses razor-sharp wit to chart the fall of 17-year-old Natalie Waite as she slips into an ever-darkening world of madness. In The Bird’s Nest (1954), timid 23-year-old Elizabeth finds her many alternate selves at her psychiatrist’s office. The Sundial (1958), a creepy gothic horror tale combined with a black comedy of manners, exposes the deplorable nature of the members of the Halloran family as they wait for the end of the world. These novels are united by the author’s vibrant, eloquent prose; incisive characterizations; intimate understanding of fear; and unerring awareness of everyday evil. Jackson’s psychological weirdness compels, but in large doses it may leave readers feeling emotionally exhausted. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/03/2020
Release date: 10/20/2020
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
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