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 mentioned to me for her novels, and have not yet braved reading them. They're described as 'macabre' and 'horror', not subjects I'm usually drawn to exploring.

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

Written in the late 1940s, 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. 

There's a sense of impending disaster, always on the edge of or in the midst of chaos, with the children always just that little bit more in control of proceedings.

There are stories of rats in the cellar; disobedient imaginary friends; addressing family members by their position at the dinner table, and their role in the home, rather than remembering their names; and a husband who is present but never really of much use in addressing the demands of daily family life.

It's wry and a little dark at times, yet affectionate, very entertaining and beautifully paced. I loved it.

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