So far I’ve read four books by Shirley Jackson, this one included. The first three I loved. We Have Always Lived in a Castle was an unexpected discovery for me, as I’ve never before heard of Jackson. Let Me Tell You a lovely holiday discovery from Barcelona. The Haunting of the Hill House could be called a more conscious choice, as I read it once I bought all of Jackson’s books, for some reason they were discounted on Amazon.
This is the first one where I cannot say I am fully convinced. I liked it, but not as much as the others. Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t have children, so my sympathy is of the imaginary kind.
Jackson tells the stories from the life of her family after they moved to Vermont. Her tone is light and ironic, she notices all the little daily obstacles but also tries to remain cheerful or at least sane. There is no plotline, we get a series of stories organized chronologically.
We have the Fielding House where they move in, a house with a mind of its own. It knows better where the furniture should be, so every time they try to move it, it seems the house reverts it. Then we get the kids with a host of imaginary friends and way too much energy. Confrontations with other mothers, once the boys get in a fight. The challenging shopping trip and the mystery of a missing blanket in a flu epidemic.
It is all witty, funny, and light. But also shows the amount of energy, stamina, and patience it takes to raised children. After Let Me Tell You I expected a bit more sarcastic commentary, but Jackson treads lightly here. She is not unhappy, actually, you get the impression she is quite happy, just exhausted and often exasperated with her loved ones. She acknowledges being a mother is hard work.
What I was missing a bit was the other side of the coin – her also being a writer. She mentions it once or twice, but when you read the stories you have to wonder when does she write. Because it seems like the kids are taking all of her time. The husband even though loving seems a bit absent.
So, as I mentioned earlier, it is interesting and fun. But it didn’t awe me like her other books so far. Maybe it works better if you’ve been through those adventures yourself, raising little moppets. Give it a shot! But also don’t treat it as a representative of Jackson’s style and abilities.