Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Hangsaman” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.77  ·  Rating details ·  4,515 ratings  ·  613 reviews
HANGSAMAN is Miss Jackson's second novel. The story is a simple one but the overtones are immediately present. "Natalie Waite who was seventeen years old but who felt that she had been truly conscious only since she was about fifteen lived in an odd corner of a world of sound and sight, past the daily voices of her father and mother and their incomprehensible actions." In ...more
191 pages
Published 1976 (first published 1951)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Hangsaman, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,515 ratings  ·  613 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Hangsaman
Oct 16, 2020 rated it liked it
This is one strange little book. Francine Prose agrees, in her foreword, saying she wished she knew about Hangsaman back when she was teaching a course called "Strange Books".

It's strange because it's Shirley Jackson (her second novel) so you go into it with a certain amount of expectation. If you're like me, you've probably read The Haunting of Hill House or at least The Lottery and so you think, yeah, this is going to be spooky, look at that cover with the noose as a frame for the crazed femal
Jul 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Shirley Jackson writes mysteries where the mystery is, do you live in a sane world? Is it mad? Is there magic? Is it good or bad magic?

Natalie Waite isn't sure she exists at all:
Or even suppose, imagine, could it be true? that she was confined, locked away, pounding wildly against the bars on the window, attacking the keepers, biting at the doctors, screaming down the corridors that she was someone named Watalie Naite..."

And later: "'We are on a carpet,' she announced soberly. 'It unrolls in fro
I read three Shirley Jackson novels this month.

The first was a bookgroup choice to celebrate Hallow'een, the eerily entitled Haunting of Hill House. I didn't write a review as it inspired few thoughts worth recording. It made me laugh a little though.

The second was We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I read it to see what I'd missed in the first, to try to figure out what there was in Jackson's writing that made other people rave about it. And there were some great paragraphs, and I liked the i
At first I wondered how complicated to get with this, because it isn't a simple story. But there isn't much you need to know, going in. A coming-of-ager but in the Bell Jar or Catcher In The Rye vein; author Shirley Jackson's quirky, truthful-feeling book hits home with force, if not exactly heart-warmingly.

A sophisticated, naive ingénue narrates her abrupt path from daughter and child to "college woman", sometimes at a singing pitch of self-discovery, sometimes reading all the signs wrongly an
Aniko Carmean
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have never read anything like HANGSAMAN. It is chilling, hyper-surreal, and told with a mind-altering narrative voice. HANGSAMAN is like shooting a cocktail of vodka and meth: it's weird, burns like hell, and you don't come down from those fever dreams the same person you were before the experience.

The most amazing thing about HANGSAMAN is that, on the surface, nothing happens. A girl, Natalie, attends a dinner party where she is possibly assaulted, starts college, drinks a lot of martinis wi
/ / / Read more reviews on my blog / / /

“Dearest dearest darling most important dearest darling Natalie—this is me talking, your own priceless own Natalie.”

Alice in Wonderland meets The Bell Jar in Shirley Jackson's much overlooked Hangsaman.
The first time I read this exceedingly perplexing novel I felt confused. Although Hangsaman shares many similarities with Jackson’s more well known novels (yet again we have a disaffected, hypersensitive, and alienated heroine), this is her most elusive work
James Everington
Feb 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Hangsaman is a strange novel by any standards; as if trying to remember a dream I feel the urge to write this blog quickly as I can, before it’s unique internal logic fades from my mind. Its central character is Natalie Whaite, a seventeen-year old American girl on the verge of going to college. The surface level events of the story are mundane, trite even: Natalie has bourgeois parents, and goes to a respectable girls-only college. But what happens externally is not really the point; this is a ...more
E. G.
Foreword, by Francine Prose

Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

More often than not, the covers of Shirley Jackson’s books are wildly inaccurate as to what’s inside.

I didn’t connect with this the first time I read it; maybe I needed a lot of distance from my own seventeen-year-old self. Being in someone’s head, at least as rendered by Jackson, is intense. Natalie describes her state of mind as so close… to the irrational and so tempted by it (page 130)— what she’s experiencing throughout is the process of individuation.

In the first section, as Natali
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The opening chapter of Hangsaman is a confidence trick. (Also something that could be said of the book as a whole.) I wondered, at first, whether it was really for me. It seems to be offering a portrait of a middle-class American family in typical 1950s suburbia. The protagonist is their 17-year-old daughter, Natalie, and the lengthy scene depicts the Waites preparing for a garden party. While beautifully written, it contains little to intrigue other than Natalie's internal flights of fancy, the ...more
Moira Russell
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
PATHETICALLY EXCITED to have this on the Kindle, I have a tattered old paperback with this cover:
Sam Quixote
17 year old Natalie is becoming an adult. Before setting off to college, she attends a disastrous party and then finds herself increasingly isolated and fraught in her new surroundings. That is until she meets the mysterious Tony, another outcast at the school - but who is Tony really and what does she want with Natalie?

Shirley Jackson’s second novel, Hangsaman, is only slightly better than her first, The Road Through the Wall, though that isn’t saying much as her first novel was utterly terrib
Lee Foust
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It occurred to me, back in October, that I probably read a lot more male authors than female--not because--at least I hope not because--I'm sexist, but because my culture is and one is nothing if not a product of many crosscurrents of life--culture, family, language, education, etc. etc. So, thanks to Goodreads I was able to chart just exactly how gender-skewed my reading is: 2012: 3/18, 2013: 11/45, 2014: 9/26, 2015: 8/41. Even by consciously choosing those books by females on my to-read shelf ...more
I've loved several of Shirley Jackson's other books but this time the magic spell didn't work on me, and when a spell fails, one is left with little to do but gawk at the occult paraphernalia involved in its casting, which are bound to ultimately seem at once baffling and quaint.

Some of Jackson's other books are expertly engineered spell-casting machines, the parameters of every pentacle chosen for optimal potency, no sigil lacking even the smallest significant curlicue. This one is more of a Ru
“I wish I were the only person in all the world, Natalie thought, with a poignant longing, thinking then that perhaps she was, after all.”

Shirley Jackson always takes you to a place where you don’t know what is real and what isn’t. In this one, she really goes out there. WAY out there. Deep into a dark forest, as a matter of fact, where I was so confused I still have no idea what was going on.

I was reminded of the Winchester Mystery House. It’s known for stairways that lead to nowhere and doors
Wendi Lee
I've enjoyed Shirley Jackson's novels and short stories in the past, but Hangsaman just wasn't for me. I vacillated between confusion (what was happening? Who was real, and who was imagined?) and boredom. This is a novel of Natalie Waite, leaving her family home for college. What seems at first to be a place of new friendships and experiences soon turns out to be etched with loneliness and madness.

The blurb tells us that this novel was based on a real life disappearance of a college student in
Edit: This was not a an actual review, but a very emotional and troubled response to what was an experience rather than a proper reading. I felt this book viscerally more than just read it. I wish I'd kept at distance from it so I could have appreciated it more. I've read a couple of reviews that made me appreciate it better, and I'm thankful for that. My perspective on it is definitely skewed, so you really shouldn't base your decision on it to decide whether you should read this novel or no ...more
Fiona MacDonald
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
Enjoyable, weird, eerie, creepy, disjointed, dreamlike, fantastical. No more words.
Hangsaman is very different from anything else I've read written by Shirley Jackson. It is generally described as a gothic novel but it does not own any of that genre's elements. It's more of a literary fiction book, a bildungsroman where you follow a young girl becoming a woman. The real element of "terror" is what a woman can go through her life, like sexual assaults, paralysing marriages and power dynamics perpetuated by men over women.
Hangsaman is divided into three parts: the first follows
Look, just know that this book is weird. It switches from first to third person sometimes too. And then you honestly don't know what's real or not real so you feel very confused at times. And you also may end up not liking anyone (I know I didn't) but may come away feeling sorry for Natalie (I did) and then just confused again. Just go read Moonlight Reader's REVIEW of this book since it will make way more sense than my mutterings about things below.

First, Natalie and her family are messed up. Y
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1951, this is Shirley Jackson’s second novel. In her first, “The Road Through the Wall,” Jackson looked to her childhood for inspiration. In this, her second, she centres on a Bennington like liberal arts school, such as the one her husband worked at. Having read a couple of biographies of Shirley Jackson, there is obviously much about both this first novels which are based upon her own experiences. There are also many hints of her future style, with similar themes running through h ...more
Hangsaman, originally published in 1951, has always been my favorite of Shirley Jackson's early novels. It's a strange sort of psychological study-cum-bildungsroman that has always been marketed as a suspense novel—which it really isn't. Shirley Jackson has always been a hard-to-classify writer, and that's likely one of the reasons I love her. She's Her Own Thing, as so many of the best things in life happen to be. Hangsaman is an uneven book, but this somehow this works to its advantage in a we ...more
John Pappas
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hangsaman makes the case that it is an oversight of enormous proportions that the literary reputation of Shirley Jackson rests upon a handful of (albeit, perfectly constructed) short stories. One might hope that the 2013 Penguin reprints of her novels would correct this and help begin a critical re-evaluation of her work; certainly, one can see the roots of the critically acclaimed work of Russell, Van Den Berg, Bender and others in the mystery, humor and terror of Hangsaman. This novel, not Pla ...more
Nov 07, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
awful. i love shirley jackson but this was painful to get through. i forced myself to finish it. one wonders if it was simply published as a result of the success of the lottery and the sundial (both of which are referenced on the front and back copy of my edition), in that moment where an agent or editor flush with eagerness, and says, "you don't have anything else kicking around that we can publish now, do you?", and a writer unwisely unveils their first "great" unpublished novel, and is undon ...more
Jul 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Hangsaman, for me at least, is one of those books that, after you finish reading, you have to look to an external source to tell you what the
hell you have just read. I'm still not sure. For awhile I wasn't even sure if one of the characters, Tony, was real.

It may not capture the reader to the extent that We have Always Lived in the Castle, but one cannot help but be drawn into Natalie's world
of paranoia. Shirley Jackson's characters are spellbinding even if their journeys are not always.

Stephanie (That's What She Read)
This was weird and I loved it
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-ya-books
I know I'll be reading this novel again in some years. The kind of story which the more you think about it, less sense it makes but a better impression it lefts. Written with a strong, yet suppressed, voice that always goes further when it overthinks a situation. With Hangsaman we get the proof that Shirley Jackson had talent, although her talent is a bit uncomfortable and bizarre. A contained intensity is what this book and the main character, Natalie, have. The ability to turn any common situa ...more
Superlatively strange. What starts as a Bildungsroman morphs into an academic comedy and then ends in the some of the creepiest, most delicately sustained horror I've ever read (that bit in the dorm in the dark-EEK!). The kind of book one can't really describe because the plot is beside the point and atmosphere is all. I found this far scarier, certainly more unsettling, than Jackson's celebrated The Haunting of Hill House. Very fine. ...more
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imagine if Henry James' Turn of the Screw met with Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club. And turn all the men into chicks. ...more
Stephen Curran
Aug 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All the time while I was reading Hangsaman I was waiting to find out what kind of novel it is. Having read We Have Always Lived in the Castle and knowing a little of Shirley Jackson's reputation, I was expecting it turn to into a Gothic melodrama or a supernatural chiller, but even four fifths of the way through, it refused to take a shape I recognised.

The first part sees Natalie Waite suffering her family at home, the second sees her suffering the poisonous student/teacher relationships at her
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Hangsaman: what happened? 3 160 Sep 30, 2014 12:44AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life
  • Shirley
  • Sisters
  • Death in Her Hands
  • The Ancestry of Objects
  • Proclaiming a Republic: Ireland, 1916, and the National Collection
  • White is for Witching
  • The Vet's Daughter
  • No One Is Talking About This
  • Such Small Hands
  • I Hold a Wolf by the Ears
  • Yokohama Threeway: And Other Small Shames
  • The Between
  • Little Weirds
  • Boy Parts
  • Irretrievable
  • The Only Good Indians
  • Lote (Twenty in 2020)
See similar books…
Shirley Jackson was an influential American author. A popular writer in her time, her work has received increasing attention from literary critics in recent years. She has influenced such writers as Stephen King, Nigel Kneale, and Richard Matheson.

She is best known for her dystopian short story, "The Lottery" (1948), which suggests there is a deeply unsettling underside to bucolic, smalltown Ameri

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
48 likes · 13 comments
“Perhaps tomorrow I shall pick up one of the houses, any one, and, holding it gently in one hand, pull it carefully apart with my other hand, with great delicacy taking the pieces of it off one after another: first the door and then, dislodging the slight nails with care, the right front corner of the house, board by board, and then, sweeping out the furniture inside, down the right wall of the house, removing it with care and not touching the second floor, which should remain intact even after the first floor is entirely gone. Then the stairs, step by step, and all this while the mannikins inside run screaming from each section of the house to a higher and a more concealed room, crushing one another and stumbling and pulling frantically, slamming doors behind them while my strong fingers pull each door softly off its hinges and pull the walls apart and lift out the windows intact and take out carefully the tiny beds and chairs; and finally they will be all together like seeds in a pomegranate, in one tiny room, hardly breathing, some of them fainting, some crying, and all wedged in together looking in the direction from which I am coming, and then, when I take the door off with sure careful fingers, there they all will be, packed inside and crushed back against the wall, and I shall eat the room in one mouthful, chewing ruthlessly on the boards and the small sweet bones.” 10 likes
“The gap between the poetry she wrote and the poetry she contained was, for Natalie, something unsolvable” 10 likes
More quotes…