Book review: Shirley Jackson, A Rather Haunted Life

I just finished Ruth Franklin’s marvelous biography Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, which would make a great gift for writer-mamas.

Best known for her short story “The Lottery,” Jackson wrote six novels–one of which was nominated for a National Book Award and another made into a movie–five story collections, four children’s books, and two hugely popular comic memoirs about her family. She managed all of that while raising four children in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s with little support from her husband–in fact, her writing income supported the family for many years. (Her advice? Do less housework.)

Franklin engagingly weaves aspects of Jackson’s personal life with summaries of her work and its critical reception. I particularly enjoyed the head-scratching from critics who didn’t understand how the same writer could publish funny stories about her kids and literary fiction that explores the human capacity for evil.

Fascinating and inspiring, Franklin’s book ought to reinvigorate interest in Jackson’s work; her titles are on my wish list! (I’m already obsessed with We Have Always Lived in the Castlejust look at that cover!)

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