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3.75  ·  Rating details ·  2,873 ratings  ·  375 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)
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3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,873 ratings  ·  375 reviews

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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
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
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
Foreword, by Francine Prose

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
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:
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
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.
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
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
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
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 not. ...more
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
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
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
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
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.

T.D. Whittle
This is a quote from Shirley Jackson's NYT obituary:
"Because Miss Jackson wrote so frequently about ghosts and witches and magic, it was said that she used a broomstick for a pen. But the fact was that she used a typewriter--and then only after she had completed her household chores."

Jackson had an abiding interest in magic, myth, and ritual. She collected grimoires and cats, and allegedly enjoyed gossip about her being a witch.* Whatever spells she used, the typewriter under the influence of Ja
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.
Anna Luce
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
★★★★✰ 4 stars

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

Alice in Wonderland meets The Bell Jar.
The first time I read this I felt confused. Although Jackson demonstrates her usual sharp humour and rhythmic writing style, the story seemed far less structured than her other novels.
A second reading however made me much more appreciative of this weird anti-bildungsroman. What I previously thought of as being a confounding narra
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
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very strange novel with a strong beginning (unfortunately, a very confusing end), Shirley Jackson's Hangsaman is another well-written piece of horror.
Edited 3/2/18 to his some spoilers.

This has the feeling of a midcentury classic to me; it feels like something a character on Mad Men would read. It's a subtle, vague, mindbending thing full of ennui, and I think it's Shirley Jackson's most complex novel. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is perfect in its simplicity. The Haunting of Hill House is frightening in its single-mindedness. Hangsaman, however, is beautiful in virtue of its untidiness.

Hangsaman is a puzzle with several pieces missin
SheriC (PM)
This was a weird little book, and I enjoyed it very much, but I’m also glad that it’s just novella sized because I doubt I could have lasted through 300 pages of Jackson’s experimental writing. It was not an easy read, because nothing is very clear, least of all what’s real vs. what’s going on inside Natalie’s head. I had to take it in small sips, but what delightful little sips those were. What starts out as slyly mocking and funny, eventually becomes a little sad and terrifying, especially onc ...more
Mar 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
My favorite Shirley Jackson book because of its mysterious nature and character development. For me, Natalie Waite was very easy to relate to in many ways, until the appearance of Toni and the downward spiral. Definitely not as creepy or scary as The Haunting of Hill House, but a great read for the amount of detail and psychological suspense.

While I started my senior thesis reading The Haunting of Hill House, I eventually would up reading almost all of Shirley Jackson and settled on writing abo
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Far stranger than I anticipated. Occasionally a slog: this is not a tightly-written book. But it’s frequently brilliant, hilarious, and terrifying. I’m not sure I understand everything I’ve just read but I know I’ll never forget it.
Oct 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, gothic, classics
This is one of the strangest books I've read, and despite its oddities and ambiguities, I enjoyed it. The plot itself isn't all that interesting, but Shirley Jackson pulls the reader into the depths of Natalie's mind and madness. In the first part, Natalie lives with her egotistical father, self-depracating mother, and indifferent brother where they host a party and she is possibly sexually assualted, but Jackson provides no answers. From the beginning, Natalie has a detective interrogating her ...more
If you are looking for horror in the contemporary sense, then you need to look elsewhere. It's amusing how the publishers of the early paperback (pulp) versions of this novel tried to make it look like simple suspense, and though it is suspenseful, it's not in the way most contemporary horror or mystery would be, and I'm sure many people were disappointed back in the day. This is a deeply strange, sadly ignored, work of genius by a writer who, in the early fifties, was not afraid to write someth ...more
Sep 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: S. jackson completists
There are so many Shirley Jackson books out there, so many more than I knew about initially.
I stayed with this book longer than I might have if it wasn't written by Shirley Jackson. I'm not always jazzed about reading from the POV of an unreliable narrator and Natalie in particular feels dangerous in her inability to distinguish real from unreal.

Overall, reading this book made me wish that she was alive and writing today where talking about unseemly topics wouldn't be quite so verboten- if it'
Timothy Jarvis
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Staggering, harrowing, but also very funny in places. A coming of age novel, filled with deeply unpleasant characters, and freighted with tragedy and occult significance. Jackson's prose is sublime.
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Hangsaman: what happened? 3 89 Sep 30, 2014 12:44AM  

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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
“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.” 7 likes
“Poor things, she thought - do they have to spend all this energy just to surround me? It seemed pitiful that these automatons should be created and wasted, never knowing more than a minor fragment of the pattern in which they were involved, to learn and follow through insensitively a tiny step in the great dance which was seen close up as the destruction of Natalie, and far off, as the end of the world.

They had all earned their deaths, Natalie thought, by a job well done - the woman in the seat ahead who had never needed a face, had perhaps been given for her part only the back of a head and a dark cloth coat collar, the man in the seat next to Natalie, a full-dress part, even to the watchchain and the grimy shirt collar - had not this same man, as a matter of fact, been close to Natalie in the station, memorising her face so that although when next they met she would not know him, he would be able to identify her, winking and gesturing with his head to the others, murmuring perhaps to the bus driver, 'That one, there.”
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