Jacqueline West's Reviews > Life Among the Savages

Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson
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May 25, 2009

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Read in July, 2009

Of her hurried taxi ride to the hospital to give birth to her third child Shirley Jackson writes, "I sat very still in the back seat, trying not to breathe. I had one arm lovingly around my suitcase, which held my yellow nightgown, and I tried to light a cigarette without using any muscles except those in my hands and my neck and still not let go of my suitcase."

Ah, the 1940s.

I love Jackson's fiction - We Have Always Lived in the Castle is amazing - but this memoir is SO different in tone and substance that it's almost rattling. Not once in the entire book does Jackson mention her work as a writer, or her struggle to balance her career and her creativity with caring for four small children and a huge old house (except when she is asked to state her occupation at the hospital, and the receptionist insists on putting down "housewife" rather than "writer"). Jackson's writing is clever and vivid, especially when she's recording her children's conversations, but throughout the entire book, there's the sense that something huge is missing.

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message 1: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann N. Yes! Did you get my e-mail about this? Her husband gets to pursue his writing career full-time, while she apparently squeezes her writing time in between caring for multiple children and pets, cleaning house, shopping, chauffering (her husband can't even drive!) everyone, and providing meals for all. That was jarring. Nevertheless, I enjoyed some of her parental anecdotes very much...

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