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

The Bird's Nest

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  3,034 ratings  ·  360 reviews
Elizabeth is a demure twenty-three-year-old wiling her life away at a dull museum job, living with her neurotic aunt, and subsisting off her dead mother’s inheritance. When Elizabeth begins to suffer terrible migraines and backaches, her aunt takes her to the doctor, then to a psychiatrist. But slowly, and with Jackson’s characteristic chill, we learn that Elizabeth is not ...more
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published December 1st 1993 by Yestermorrow (first published 1954)
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 The Bird's Nest, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Jack You could try The Minds of Billy Milligan. Or Sybil. Or just google "books about DID", there are a decent amount.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,034 ratings  ·  360 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Bird's Nest
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
The more I read by Shirley Jackson, the more of a fan I become. This is a masterful character study of a woman with multiple personalities--told (as is fitting) from multiple perspectives. Shirley Jackson once again proves herself to be the queen of creepy, the dame of disquiet. I give it 4 stars instead of 5 only to distinguish it from her greater later work: We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House. Here, she explores many of the same themes--psychological dread, menta ...more
2.5 stars

"Elizabeth, Beth, Betsy, and Bess, they all went together to find a bird’s nest…"

There’s no denying that Shirley Jackson was the mistress of the bizarre. This book attracted my attention immediately. What could be more disturbing than a story about a young woman with multiple personalities - especially when conveyed by the masterful genius of such a notable author as Jackson? Well, unfortunately, it could have been a lot more disquieting than it actually turned out to be. That gripping
Nandakishore Varma
“Elizabeth, Beth, Betsy, and Bess, they all went together to find a bird's nest...”

(Image - image by Dreimond)

Elizabeth Richmond is a troubled young woman. Ostensibly a quiet, plain orphan girl employed in an uninteresting job in a museum, she's anything but the exterior she poses to the world - because inside, Elizabeth is really four people. The quiet and mousy Elizabeth, the extremely sensitive Beth, the wickedly naughty Betsy, and the juvenile and anti-social Bes
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

I love Shirley Jackson's stories, but she terrifies me in the same type of manner that Robert Stack as host of Unsolved Mysteries still does to this day. They both talk about shit that I REALLY would rather not think about but yet cannot stay away from.

In this 1954 novel, we have twenty three year old Elizabeth Richmond, a quiet librarian who lives with her aunt. Nothing really exciting, right? Well, SJ pulls no punches and before the story reaches 6%, the weirdness begins.

and i ca
Mar 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The Three Faces of Eve meets Frankenstein

Thinking Jackson’s inspiration for this book had to be The Three Faces of Eve, I was puzzled about hers being published in 1954 and the other being published in 1957. Then I discovered from The Rape of Eve: The True Story Behind The Three Faces of Eve that, besides an academic paper by Eve’s doctors, a series of articles in a non-academic magazine and a documentary film about Eve all appeared in 1953. If Jackson was influenced by the story of Eve, s
E. G.
Foreword, by Kevin Wilson

--The Bird's Nest
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddy-reads
After my first (and amazing) experience reading Shirley Jackson a couple of weeks ago, I found myself really excited about reading ‘The Bird’s Nest’. A story about a girl with multiple personalities seemed like something that could tick all my (dark) boxes. If you ever watched the film “Black Swan” with Natalie Portman then you’ll easily get what kind of despairing and hallucinogenic story I was hoping to get myself into. If you haven’t watched it I can’t give you a better example as I don’t kno ...more
Fiona MacDonald
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
Strange and wonderful, Shirley Jackson does the odd and peculiar so well, like you are in a world completely alien to all others and where things that would be strange to you or I are normal to these characters. Although I found it a bit tough during the middle, the beginning and end gripped me and I was fascinated to see how Jackson writes about 4 separate characters in one body (a bit like 'The Three Faces of Eve). This must surely be one of her cleverest books ever, I was amazed she could con ...more
Acacia Ives
For what they had for information and treatment at the time this novel was written I'm beyond impressed. Several things in this felt like things only a person with DID would know. I'd love to know Shirley Jacksons sources on this story. Review to come
Oct 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having loved, “The Haunting of Hill House,” and “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” I was looking forward to reading more by Shirley Jackson. Published in 1954, this is Jackson’s third novel and already has several themes which recur in later books. The main character, Elizabeth Richmond, is a withdrawn and isolated young woman who acts much younger than her actual age. When we meet her, she lives with her Aunt Morgen and working in the clerical department of a museum. She hardly seems to be n ...more
Originally published in 1954, The Bird’s Nest is Shirley Jackson’s well-regarded tale of a young woman suffering from multiple personality disorder. There are four separate personalities within this girl (referred to by her treating physician as “Miss R."): timid, colorless Elizabeth, cloyingly sweet Beth, hyperactive prankster Betsy, and venal, greedy Bess. The novel describes Elizabeth/Beth/Betsy/Bess’s initial unraveling, eventual diagnosis, and the efforts of a Dr. Wright (with the help of M ...more
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

I think that this was one of Jackson's most commercially successful novels, and while in many ways it reads like vintage Jackson, it has a slightly different feel than We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House, two of my favorites.

In The Bird's Nest, Shirley Jackson once again taps into the complicated psyche of her characters and ultimately her readers with the story of Elizabeth Richmond, a young women suffering from multiple personalities.

This once popula
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I was amazed at what Jackson got right about DID. The first and third parts of the story were my favorites. I didn't enjoy the perspective of Doctor Wright very much. His methods and sense of ownership over Elizabeth's personality were unethical and frustrating to read. I also found the plot not very climactic. Overall, though, I enjoyed this and definitely want to read more Jackson. I'm enchanted by her succinct and haunting writing style.
Jan 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the correct term nowadays is Dissociative Identity Disorder, but this book is from the '50s (I think) so Elizabeth's condition is called something else. I can't vouch for how accurate a portrayal it is. It kept me turning the pages, and I was expecting Morgen...I don't know if she was a jealous sister, a fed-up guardian, or something else entirely, but she got rather verbose with long rants in the latter half of the book.
juicy brained intellectual
Sep 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, used
i was kind of worried after i read hangsaman that there was a reason early shirley jackson novels were out of print but no, this is great. i love the way shirley jackson writes mentally ill women, although i was a bit worried this one would be problematic considering the disagreements over MPD/DID. idk, i guess it's a bit dated but i liked it a lot and now more than ever i am excited to read judy oppenheimer's bio of ms jackson.

also, i scored this for $2.75 from better world books' last sale. u
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really love Shirley Jackson, but this book was only okay. It never managed to really grip me and while it was weird, it didn’t feel as special as her other novels. Maybe it was just that the topic didn’t interest me as much. A girl and her Four personalities that fight each other... it felt quite old fashioned and a bit boring. I didn’t really care for any of the characters. Not the different personalities of Elizabeth, her aunt or the doctor.
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookshelf
I reveal myself, then, at last: I am a villian, for I created wantonly, and a blackguard, for I destroyed without compassion; I have no excuse.
Richard Moss
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, magic-square
I fell in love with Shirley Jackson when I read We've Always Lived in the Castle.

This is an earlier work, and while it isn't as successful, it's still a compelling, dark and disturbing read.

Its subject is Elizabeth - a woman with a multiple personality disorder.

Elizabeth is a quiet, apparently unremarkable woman working in a museum and living with her aunt. She is afflicted by backaches, headaches and insomnia, and is disturbed when she receives threatening letters.

But this is only the start of
May 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I thought this started so well, Elizabeth works in a leaning museum with a hole through it, she starts receiving these sinister notes 'i hate you dirty lizzie...' and her aunt keep accusing of her sneaking out in the middle of the night. I'll take a bushel of that. It builds up this surreal and disturbing tension until the doctor steps in...and god is he ever a pretentious douche. It all gets a bit flabby in the midriff, and the doctor's narratives annoyed me. I loved The Haunting of Hill House, ...more
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Bird's Nest, Elizabeth Richmond seems a normal young woman. She works at the museum, a small position that is not challenging. She lives with her Aunt Morgen,
then her life begins to change. She finds notes left for her at work. She is constantly cursed with headaches.
It finally comes to a head one night while they were visiting neighbors. Elizabeth behaves in a shocking way. Her aunt insist that she visit the doctor. She is then sent to a psychologist who makes the discovery that she has fo
Nov 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, mystery
I just finished this book after starting it two days ago. I must say, after reading it, my brain is exhausted. However, the exhaustion is not to be confused with dislike for The Bird's Nest. I enjoyed it very much. It's just a lot to take in--hard to follow if you will. It all comes together as the book progresses, but for a majority of the reading, the reader is left confused and inquiring about what is being said or what has happened. Though that is the point, I'd imagine.

The book is about a w
Sep 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Poor Elizabeth Richmond. Poor Beth Richmond. Poor Betsy Richmond. Poor Bess Richmond.

Who are all there poor people, you may ask? Actually, it's just one person. We can collectively refer to this person by her "pre-fracture" name, Elizabeth. She's a shy girl of twenty-three who, like all of Shirley Jackson's heroines, acts much younger than her age. At some point in her past, she suffered a terrible trauma and, employing a very unhealthy coping mechanism, fractured her own personality into four
Laila (BigReadingLife)
3.5 Stars. Deliciously strange. Who wrote stuff like this in 1954? Shirley Freaking Jackson, that’s who. In my quest to read everything she wrote, it wasn’t my favorite, but I’m glad I read it. It felt overly long in the middle, but the story of a young woman with multiple personalities and the doctor and aunt who want to “save” her captivated me all the same. (The scene where Aunt Morgen witnesses all the personalities taking a bath one after the other, unaware of all the time they’d spent in t ...more
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gave up on this after 60 pages, just not my thing at all.
Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)
This, Shirley Jackson’s third novel, came out six years after “The Lottery” and five years before The Haunting of Hill House. It is clear that what she is interested in are themes that encompass the dark depths humanity can sink to and intensely character-driven stories. Though I don’t think The Bird’s Nest can be considered a Gothic novel (like her last two and more well-known books), it shows clear ruminations on interiority and deeply emotional characters and the creation of a dark, tense atm ...more
Hailey Zipfel
A meditation on control. Elizabeth’s personalities fight to control her based on their own interpretations of a traumatic event; Aunt Morgen - in charge of her finances - and Dr. Wright - in charge of her mental health - struggle to mold the girl into their best interest based on her fractured personality. This is the first Jackson I’ve read that is... messy. It could have been longer, spending more time with each (dissociative) character, exploring each psyche and personality. It also may have ...more
Kressel Housman
Mar 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, psychology
When I picked this up, the only work I'd ever read by Shirley Jackson was "The Lottery," which was required reading in my 9th grade English class. I imagined her full-length novel would be similar, a grabby read with a disturbing surprise ending, and I was right.

Okay, I'll qualify that. The first few paragraphs were so dull and wordy, I almost gave the book up right then and there. They describe a museum, which is the workplace of the protagonist, though you're not told that right away. This des
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Bird's Nest" is a marvelous descent into the mental health problems of a young lady named Elizabeth Richmond. As the book progresses more and more of her different personalities are brought out via hypnosis. The book was WAY ahead of it's time with writing, it's female protagonists, and dark and ominous themes.

Do I think Shirley understood hypnosis and multiple personalities fully? Nah, probably not but she definitely makes a compelling case for her version of it and it's creepy and terrify
Dec 21, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoyed parts of this story, but most of it felt very plodding. The multiple povs and the feeling of never really getting into these characters heads left me feeling disconnected. Rarely has reading felt like so much work.
Robyn Gail
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stas
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life
  • Asylum
  • Ghost Stories
  • Mr Wilder and Me
  • Il ciarlatano
  • The Mustache
  • Dio odia le donne
  • I salici
  • La morte di Belle
  • Dark Blood Comes From the Feet
  • Shirley
  • La cattiva strada
  • The Book of Candlelight (Secret, Book, & Scone Society, #3)
  • Metropole
  • Presagio triste
  • Into the Forest and all the Way Through
  • La città dei vivi
  • Black Ambrosia
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

Are you having a difficult time reading these days? If so, you're not alone. Since the pandemic began, I've found it harder to concentrate on...
90 likes · 40 comments
“Elizabeth, Beth, Betsy, and Bess, they all went together to find a bird's nest...” 9 likes
“It is not proven that Elizabeth's person equilibrium was set off balance by the slant of the office floor, nor could it be proven that it was Elizabeth who pushed the building off its foundations, but it is undeniable that they began to slip at about the same time.” 7 likes
More quotes…