My book review of 'Life Among the Savages' by Shirley Jackson

Life Among the Savages

by Shirley Jackson
Life Among the Savages
by Shirley Jackson

I've repeatedly had Shirley Jackson's novels recommended to me but as their themes are described as 'macabre' and 'horror', I've never braved them!

However, I was intrigued to see that she is also a 'pitch-perfect chronicler of everyday family life' and I thought this book set in 1940s America was just brilliant.

The book is a collection of short stories edited into a fictionalised memoir. It is a wry, dark, nostalgic account of a young family over a period of about six years, always on the edge of, or in the midst of, chaos, with a sense of impending disaster. And the children always seem just a little bit more in control of proceedings.

There is a nostalgic feel about the roles of husband and wife in the household, the clothes, food, the relationships with neighbours, and the behaviour of children.

Family members are addressed by their position at the dinner table, rather than by their names. The husband is present but never really involved in addressing the demands of daily family life. And there are rats in the cellar, disobedient imaginary friends and a house move to negotiate.

It's wry and a little dark at times, yet affectionate, very entertaining and beautifully paced. I loved it. And there's a sequel called 'Raising Demons'.

Review date: October 2021
Publication date: 1st August 2019