Friday, October 22, 2021

Book Review - Life Among the Savages; Shirley Jackson

 

Life Among the Savages; Shirley Jackson

Dreamscape Media - 2015 (6 hrs. 31 min)

Every October I automatically peruse a list of books available by author Shirley Jackson. Generally it's because I'm looking for a darker or creepier type of story but, this year I came across, Life Among the Savages,  and I ended up loving it. The book was originally published in 1953, the audio in 2015 is read by Lesa Lockford who did a great job.

This was written as a series of essays featuring an unnamed mother and father with two children who learn they are being evicted from their New York City apartment.  They decide to move to rural Vermont with their two children who are not yet in school.  It's the early 1950s and the family doesn't drive, but they do own thousands of books (love them already) which will need to be transported.  Both parents smoke and like their wine and while the mother tries to do it all the father seems unfazed by all that needs to get done. They end up living in an ancient house and besides getting settled, figuring out logistics in their new locale,  the youngest child has to get enrolled in kindergarten, there is shopping (without a car initially) meal preparation and more.  It's clear this woman, this family needs help.  She can't count on her hands-off husband who eventually ends up teaching a couple of classes at Bennington College, and when home spends some time writing and obsessing over his coin collection.  An attempt at hiring some part time help leads to some very funny outcomes.  If the mother isn't stressed enough, over the course of the book she gives birth to two more children.  Don't get me wrong the father came in handy when they found themselves with rodents - another hilarious event.  Book one of this bio ends shortly after the birth of the couple's fourth child.  

Are you familiar with Leave to Beaver the 1950/60s series with the Clever Family. Remember June the perfect stay-at-home mom and Ward, the dad who went to work each day, dinner was always ready, the house always perfect? Well, this family isn't like them in the least but, they were so fun to spend time with and get to know.  It's no wonder Shirley Jackson died before her 50th birthday, in her sleep, as she napped one afternoon in 1968.

Growing up in the1950s and 60s (we didn't have a car then either), I could definite relate to a few of the conundrums this family found themselves in.  I just requested book #2 of her child rearing exploits, Raising Demons from the library; it should be fun.  Have you read this one?

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

(I downloaded the audio from my public library.)

26 comments:

  1. When I saw 'Shirley Jackson's, my first thought was that I don't know them book. And then I saw it's an autobiography.
    Something different from her normal creepy stories.
    Sounds good and your review was lovely!

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    1. It was such a fun experience from a woman known for her darker tales.

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  2. Thanks for this review. I have made a note of this one to add to my TBR.

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  3. I enjoy this one though if I had been Shirley Jackson I think I would have smothered her husband in his sleep as he wandered off on tangents while she herded children! This one always makes me giggle. My favorite story is the one where they're talking to one of the children's teachers and it turns out that the child he's been telling bad stories about doesn't actually exist!

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    1. I know what you mean; that husband was a piece of work. He would have at least gotten hot coffee dumped on him a few times by me LOL Yes, the parent/teacher event was another fun moment.

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  4. This does sound like fun--the other side to Shirley Jackson!

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  5. I didn't know Shirlye Jackson wrote an autobiography. And it sounds really interesting!

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    1. Many of these stories were published in those early women's magazines: Women's Day, Good Housekeeping etc. Such fun.

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  6. I skimmed through this one a while back when the mystery book group read one of her more spooky books. I think I ought to try it on audio at some point. It does indeed sound funny in the extreme. LOL

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    1. I can't recall whether you listen to audios Kay or do combo read/listens but, the audio was funny.

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  7. This sounds like it would be highly entertaining! I'll give it a listen and maybe buy the print edition, as well. Thanks, Diane!

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    1. This would be good as a combo read/listen. I only had the audio. I have the next one Raising Demons from the library in print but not quite ready to start it. I need to read my book group one first.

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  8. I've read a lot of Shirley Jackson, but not this one. It sounds like fun, a little more lighthearted than I would expect from her. What a strange life she lived.

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    1. Yes for someone born around the time of my own parents early 20th century, Shirley Jackson and her husband seemed to throw caution to the wind. Especially considering they had a very young family.

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  9. I've only read one book by Shirley Jackson but this does sound so much different from her fiction works. Sounds like a fascinating person and definitely would like to read this.

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  10. We have a lot in common -- like reaching for a Shirley Jackson book each October. I havent heard about this book before but I'll see if my library has the audio of it. I wonder about Jackson's early death. hmm

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    1. I'm not surprised with all the smoking, unhealthy eating and alcohol consumption that she, her husband and many more of that era met with an early death.

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  11. This sounds great! And I just found the audio on hoopla... adding one more to my Nonfiction November list.

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  12. This sounds so good! I checked but my library didn't have it :( I may look for it somewhere else.

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    1. Oh, too bad. I'm surprised they don't at least have print.

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