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The Road Through the Wall

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  890 Ratings  ·  127 Reviews
Everyone knew the residents of Pepper Street were "nice" people -- especially the residents themselves. Among the self-satisfied group were: Mrs Merriam, the sanctimonious shrew who was turning her husband into a nonentity and her daughter into a bigoted spinster; Mr Roberts, who found relief from the street's unending propriety in shoddy side-street amours; Miss Fielding, ...more
Hardcover, 220 pages
Published May 1976 by Popular Library (first published 1948)
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Joanna Shirley Jackson's novels rarely end tidily. I think the "who dunnit" is less important than the path that led to the ending. Jackson challenges us to…moreShirley Jackson's novels rarely end tidily. I think the "who dunnit" is less important than the path that led to the ending. Jackson challenges us to examine our own thoughts and actions and wants us to ask ourselves whether we would have acted differently from the characters in the novel. (less)

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I'm currently slowly working my way through all of Shirley Jackson's books (many for the umpteenth time); it was a pleasure to revisit this, her very first novel, originally published in 1948. Road tells the story of the residents of Pepper Street in a genteel suburb of San Francisco in the summer of 1936. That these people are by and large a distinctly unpleasant bunch of alternately backbiting, bigoted, snobbish, or mean-spirited folks is what seems gives a lot of readers pause; but one of Jac ...more
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
First let me comment on this particular publication, which was riddled with editing errors, at one point referring to one of the characters, Miss Fielding, as Miss Flemming. Furthermore, the description on the back of the book doesn't fit the story. Very bizarre.

All that said, though slightly different from Jackson's later novels, which more easily fall into the horror genre, The Road Through the Wall still delivers in Jackson style.

Most notably is Jackson's insight into middle-class America/su
Sep 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Shirley Jackson

As far as I can tell, this was Shirley Jackson's first novel. It has a few flaws but you can recognize her. She already had her fingers on the pulse of the dark underside in American suburban life. "The Lottery," the short story which made her career, was published in The New Yorker in the same year as this novel.

Over a period of one summer, a group of families, all of which live on the same block, interact in the way of small neighborhoods. Each family is introduced with a bit about their backg
Feb 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: depressing, 2014
This is a series of everyday vignettes about the horrible, horrible, normal people that fill the microcosm of Pepper Street. Horrible children, horrible spinsters, horrible wives and husbands. The horribleness of the community builds with each page, so the entire time, I was waiting for a Truly Awful Thing to happen. But don't look for any one Truly Awful Villain; like the Shirley classics to come, the evil is in the mass.
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unpleasant book about bunch of unpleasant people.
The story takes place during a single summer and it shows how much bigotry, hatred, stupidity, infidelity, racism and so on can be hidden under pleasant smiles, neat lawn, clean houses, propriety or good manners.
Its not a murder mystery, even though there is a murder, it's not a creepy story, even though there are some major creepers (Tod Daniels, I'm looking at you, you creepy lurker!). But there is this sense of uneasiness that you can't real
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Road Through the Wall is Queen of Creepy Shirley Jackson's first novel. In the foreword to the Penguin edition which I borrowed from the library, Ruth Franklin writes: 'Compared to The Haunting of Hill House or We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Jackson's masterful late novels, The Road Through the Wall is a slighter work. But it is marvellously written, with the careful attention to structure, the precision of detail, and the brilliant bite of irony that would always define her style'.

Dec 30, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2009, reviews
Found at the library book sale, the jacket sold me on the book. Unfortunately, Jackson's fine writing and intriguing characters are lost in a pointless, detailed subarban life that spirals into nowhere.

There are many frustrating points in the story where, had she been a more daring writer, would have filled the novel with more complexity and brought motivations and secrets to light. But she didn't go there. Hester leaves, who knows where. Frederica's sister's condition is never explored, and we
Brent Legault
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is not the kind of book I would normally take a liking to. It's got a Winesburg, Ohio-ey feel about it, as if the main character were not a person but a place (in this case the protagonist is Pepper Street, somewhere in northern California.) But Jackson writes with such wit and charm and is so very clever and mischievous (with her hints and her sly, dry asides, and her half-said truths and her subtle intimations and her beautiful handling of the cruelties of childhood and the indignities, t ...more
Oct 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
phenomenal! objectively speaking i suppose i would agree with other reviewers in rating this below the haunting of hill house, we have always lived in the castle, and other undisputed heavyweight champions of the literary world - its aims are more modest, for one, and unevenly accomplished. but oh, that prose! shirley jackson skewers her petty nasty snobby spiteful characters with such clean, precise prose - skewers them violently, with glee.

rather than a sustained plot, this book is really not
Kat Cui
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
At first I thought this was just a bunch of snapshots about extremely unpleasant people but the last third of this book was a legitimate page turner and everything came together (but not entirely, still in pieces..). I think it treads very very familiar territory but in a deft way..the way Jackson was able to put together these anecdotes slowly at 1st and then in taut concise, even like paragraph length, little pieces, was well done.. very much like The Lottery actually.. and more uncomfortable ...more
Blue Cypress Books
"Mrs. Desmond was neither intelligent nor unintelligent, because thinking and all its allied attributes were completely outside her schedule for life; her values did not include mind, and nothing that she intended ever required more than money." These people are the worst and Shirley knew it even back in 1939.
Melanie Page
This book is a giant slice-of-life story. There is no narrative arc. Characters come and go without reason. There is no build up or true conclusion of story lines. There are characteristic oddities that only Shirley Jackson can pull off, but those don't seem to add up to anything either. This book could have been 1,000 pages, but instead, it's slice of life.
Feb 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
This is Shirley Jackson's first novel which was published in 1948, just one year before her famous short story The Lottery.

It's a bit difficult to get into at first as the reader is confronted with all the inhabitants of Pepper Street in suburbia in (presumably) post-war U.S.A. It becomes a bit easier to read once you get to know some of the characters a bit better but I wished that I'd written a list of them as I kept forgetting who was who. But no one character stands out as the 'main charact
Feb 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shirley Jackson is one of the few authors I feel happy just picking up and reading anything they have written. That said, I was concerned it would be one of her weaker pieces and might find not find it very interesting. That was only partly the case.

The story presents a slice of suburban life in late 1940's America with all the repression, prejudice, conservatism and cruelty that it entails. It is set in a single street, focusing not on any particular character, but hopping in a scattered fashio
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: boring
I am usually a fan of Jackson's work, but this one was a disappointment.
The back cover description of the edition I have said that the plot revolves around how a tragic event disrupts a small town.

I expected the Jackson's sublime ability to unnerve, add tension and mystery without purely through psychological drama.
Instead nothing actually happened until the last 20 pages, and the event that does happened had already been spoiled by the back cover, and by then it was just to little, to late.
Megan Robison
I just finished this book this morning and I'm already trying to see where I can fit it into my schedule to reread.

It does start a bit slow - there's a prologue which I feel is not particularly necessary because Shirley Jackson establishes characterization so well in the moment that she really doesn't need to explain who everyone is beforehand. But the way the tension elevates throughout this book is done so masterfully, by the end you're just tearing through it. I'd advise having a buddy read t
Dec 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror, classics
Shirley Jackson's first novel isn't her best, but glimpses of her greatness can be found in this story of a middle class suburban neighborhood. Jackson's writes with a full display of subtlety following snapshots of various families every day lives in one summer in Pepper Street. That said, the plot is thin or nonexistent, and reads more like a bunch of vignettes, though many of them I found entertaining and funny. However, I wouldn't necessarily call this character driven since there were far t ...more
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-we-love
Jakob Vala (Graphic Designer): It’s fitting that I most often find Shirley Jackson in the form of torn paperbacks, on crowded shelves in the back of dusty bookstores. Once, on a post-college dropout road trip, I discovered novel after novel in nearly every tiny coastal bookstore I stepped into. Jackson’s stories feel at place in unconventional settings. Disturbing and oddly wry, her writing examines conformity in a manner so precise as to appear almost fetishistic.

A few weeks ago, while walking
Frances Sawaya
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
An excellent first novel and one that Jackson knew she had to get out of herself so that she would be free from parental memories and constraints. What a way to do that! Now that her books are being re-released I have been enjoying finding this writer again and going back to where she started. Worth the journey! In this instance, worth the journey if only for the views she gives of life in the burbs similar to my childhood neighborhoods of Marin County. A;though, I would wager that those on Boli ...more
Chadwick Saxelid
Sep 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Pepper Street is not the nice, safe neighborhood its residents pride themselves in thinking it is. Beneath its placid, almost docile, surface Pepper Street simmers with malice, abuse, bigotry, and infidelity. Friendships begin, allegiances shift, and friendships end as mean-spirited whisper campaigns of spiteful gossip are waged morning, noon, and night by its oh-so-prim-and-proper residents.

Less a complete story than a series of interconnected fragments and vignettes, The Road Through the Wall
Stephen Curran
Reportedly, Shirley Jackson's first novel was written 'to get back at her parents'. It is a tale set in a suburban neighbourhood, where snobbery and prejudice abound. Thematically, it fits alongside much of the author's other work, in its condemnation of small-mindedness and distrust of 'community'. It's feels engagingly like a good telling-off, and it's typically funny at unexpected moments.

What stops it from being as successful as her later novels is over-population. The Prologue is so packed
Mar 29, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This creepy story brought back images from the nice middle-class 1970s neighborhood I grew up in, minus the "terrible event" mentioned on the back cover of the book. Shirley Jackson has an incredible way with words and dialogue, and an uncanny ability to draw a picture with a very dark shadow lurking just off to the side. You can't seem to figure out where it's coming from or what effect it will have on the story but its presence is undeniably felt. My neighborhood was just like the one in this ...more
I can't remember a book where I cared less about the characters, most of whom are nearly indistinguishable by both name and behavior, and are too thickly populated. Annoying lengthy Biblical quotations appear throughout, suggesting an allegory of Good and Evil, but I was not able to sort that out, since I skipped them. The layout of the houses on Pepper Street is very significant to the story; it would have been helpful for the author to have included a detailed map of the neighborhood where the ...more
Jul 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading Shirley I'm even more inspired to read everything by Jackson.

Not sure why some readers have categorized this as horror unless it's just because it's Jackson...or it's just the horror of the ennui present in the suburbs of the 1940s with its casual racism and classism.

This was Jackson's first published work and a reader definitely sees glimpses of what is to come, even though there are far too many characters that aren't sharply distinguished - in fact it's even more reminiscent o
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Not a bad debut for an author. It was quite the social commentary and full of so many characters that at times it was difficult to keep track of them all. Yet even in what seemed like a satirical take on class and society, Jackson managed to go dark on the ending. Glimmers of things to come.

I found myself wishing for further development of certain characters - what was it like to face being pushed to the edges like that because of race/religion? What was it really like being one of the mor
Apr 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
If you're considering reading this book, here are some things you should know:

1. There are a lot of characters, but you don't need to worry about trying to keep track of them all. You'll catch on eventually, at least with the characters of any importance.

2. The description on the back of the Popular Library edition (with the very '70s cover) has absolutely nothing to do with the book, and makes no sense at all. The description inside the front cover is more accurate, but the last part of it cont
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Apr 01, 2012 rated it liked it
I quit reading this about sixty pages from the end because it was too flippin' sad. Like, Thomas Hardy sad. This probably makes me a lightweight but I couldn't cope with it.
Not my favorite book of S. Jackson, but a good one :)
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Could anybody spoil this for me, please? 9 21 Feb 12, 2017 05:08AM  
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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
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“In ten years I will be a beautiful charming lovely lady writer without any husband or children but lots of lovers and everyone will read the books I write and want to marry me but I will never marry any of them. I will have lots of money and jewels too.” 9 likes
“Miss Fielding had no fears of ultimate survival, even in beauty. When she passed on, she would draw after her every trailing mist of herself, effacing herself so completely that even after her death, even after her bones, which she could not help, were gone, she would be a bother to no one, would intrude on no mind.” 1 likes
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