Saturday, August 10, 2019

Life Among the Savages - Memoir Review

Goodreads:  Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson

Rating: Very Good
Source:  Purchased

Description:  Can this be the author of such chilling tales as The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House? An ordinary housewife stuck in a big, shabby house with three marvelous, demanding children and a charming husband who takes detached interest in the chaos they generate? Yes, it's Shirley Jackson all right: the precision of her observations and prose is familiar, even if her humor is something of a surprise. Not until Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions in 1993 would another woman write with such honesty about the maddening multitude of trivial, essential chores that constitute a mother's life. But Jackson nailed it first, 40 years earlier, in her hilarious chronicle of life in a small Vermont town, where getting the kids to school on time requires the combined gifts of a drill sergeant and a lady's maid. The saga of her son's bumpy adjustment to kindergarten, frequently anthologized as Charles, is justly famous, but Jackson's account of the Department Store Trip from Hell (two kids, two toy guns, one doll carriage and doll, mayhem in revolving doors and escalators) is even funnier. Although her memoirs are as merciless as her ghost stories, you may not notice because you're laughing so hard. --Wendy Smith

Genre: Nonfiction - Memoir

Why I Picked This Book:  I've read bits and pieces of this one over the year and decided it was time to read it start to finish.

My Impression:  I've read several of Jackson's books over the years and she is truly the master of suffusing just the right mood into her books.  In most of her stories that mood is typically eerie and unsettling but in this one I can almost feel her mostly good natured exhaustion just oozing from the pages.  Between Laurie's stories about his mischievous friend and school and Jannie's herd of imaginary friends that all simply must be carefully escorted off an escalator in a very crowded department store there's plenty to laugh and plenty to identify with.  It's a quick read and one I can almost see Jackson shrugging at the stories as she writes them.  She's frazzled and exhausted but always manages to keep her very dry sense of humor out in front.

There's not much substance to this one and it's a bit dated in some ways but neither of those really bothered me.  This is a nice book to pick up when you need something easy and enjoyable to read - and it's very fun to contrast this with the work Jackson is better known for.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would!  I've been a fan of Jackson for years and always enjoy her work.  And I just learned that she actually wrote a sequel to this one called Raising Demons and I'll definitely be on the lookout for that one.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy family memoirs and are looking for a light read then this is a perfect choice.


  1. I love memoirs but I can see how this could read as dated, when a woman (wife, mother) was expected to run the household and raise the kids basically on her own as husband provided from his job. I have enjoyed The Lottery and Haunting Of Hill House, but I think that's all I've read by her. If I came across a copy of this I'd read it, but I wouldn't actively seek it out.

    Thanks so much for introducing books every week that aren't the "new shiny ones". I like to find oldies but goodies!

  2. I'm definitely adding this one to my TBR! This sounds interesting! Awesome review.

  3. I haven't read any of the author's fiction, but I imagine this would be a great book to read along side it to see the author behind the books. I am glad you liked it!

  4. I have never heard of this author but anyone who can keep their sense of humor while feeling frazzled has my admiration.