Life Among the Savages

Thoughts  Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson, Academy Chicago 1990 (orig 1948), 241 pages Tradeback offsize

Memoir, Nonfiction

Delightfully charming! You get a sense of how terrific a mom Shirley was by how she truly listens to her kids and encourages their imagination.

It’s been said that these essays of domestic hilarity are what inspired the genre most think of when you say the name Erma Bombeck, but it wouldn’t be something Ms. Jackson would have been too thrilled with, I don’t think. I bet she often thought this audience of her ‘stories’ beneath her contempt. But they sold and sold well. What’s an author to do?

It almost breaks your heart to read this and then right after, read her biography. No wait. It DID break my heart to read the bio right after enjoying these madcap loving little tales.

If you want to immerse yourself into fascinating and extremely talented writings of a complicated artist, study Shirley Jackson. First read her infamous short story The Lottery and then read this or Raising Demons (I haven’t read), then read We’ve Always Lived in the Castle (a favorite of mine; I want to read it again, especially after reading her biography), and then read Oppenheimer’s bio. And then, if you are like me, you’ll seek out everything Jackson ever wrote.

I am in the middle – and I jump around, as always – of her collection Just An Ordinary Day. Then I want to read The Road Through the Wall and then The Bird’s Nest and then…

Which Shirley Jackson book will YOU read next?

BOOK MENAGE scheduled for the week of December 3rd over at Citizen Reader.



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18 thoughts on “Life Among the Savages

    1. Ya know, I don’t really count this as memoir but more fictionalized true stories about raising kids. The book says it is AUTOBIOGRAPHY but I wouldn’t say it fits my definition of that either.

  1. To my deep shame, I owned a copy of Life Among the Savages, and gave it away during one of my moves. I’ve been kicking myself ever since! I have been looking for a copy of her autobiography too, which our library has only in hardcover and I want to own anyway. I love Shirley Jackson. A little creepy, definitely horrific, deeply unsettling, and she manages to make you care about her characters at the same time. I love The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always LIved in the Castle, The Lottery is a superb short story, and I had an old copy of Raising Demons, and gave it away too, along with The Bird’s Nest. I thought when I was young that I would not return one day to authors that I loved…..I know better now! and of course none of her books are available, even second-hand extremely difficult to find (at least here in Canada).

    I’m thrilled you are enjoying her so much and have sought out so many of her books. Delighted, in fact! Yaaay!

    1. I wonder if they will soon reprint some of her titles what with the success of We’ve Always Lived in the Castle.
      Thrilled to find out you are a big fan, too!

  2. I need to read The Haunting of Hill House next, for sure. Should have read it in October for RIP VII. I don’t read biographies very often (close to never) but you have gotten me intrigued about this one by Oppenheimer!

  3. I’ve read both Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons, and you’re right, Care – definitely not autobiographies. Totally engaging, very charming – and a bit of a disconnect from what I knew of her life.

  4. Ruthiella

    I am currently reading this for the Menage as well and my 2ond choice for the Menage will be The Haunting of Hill House. I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle two years ago…very unsettling. I think there are glimpses of the subversive in Life Among Savages however…or maybe I am just reading that into it?

  5. The story that made me so sad when I was reading Life among the Savages (which I don’t think I finished, but I still own it) was the one where she’s getting her driver’s license (or something) and trying to convince them that she’s a writer and that’s her job and they keep saying “I’ll just put down ‘housewife’.” Poor Shirley Jackson.

    1. Ruthiella

      That is when she is being admitted to the hospital for the birth of her 3rd child. She says “Writer” and the nurse replies with “I’ll put down “housewife”. But it is funny, because when the nurse asks Jackson’s husband’s occupation, Jackson answers “Housewife”.

  6. Pingback: It’s Shirley Jackson Week « Care's Online Book Club

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