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Life Among the Savages

(Jacksons #1)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  4,912 ratings  ·  749 reviews
Shirley Jackson, author of the classic short story The Lottery, was known for her terse, haunting prose. But the writer possessed another side, one which is delightfully exposed in this hilariously charming memoir of her family's life in rural Vermont. Fans of Please Don't Eat the Daisies, Cheaper by the Dozen, and anything Erma Bombeck ever wrote will find much to recogni ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 1st 1997 by Penguin Books (first published 1953)
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Julie
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Reading Road Trip 2020

Current location: Vermont

As obsessed as I've been with Shirley Jackson for the past two years of my life, you'd have thought she'd have been my first choice for the state of Vermont.

Foolishly, she wasn't.

Many of Ms. Jackson's novels indicate a New England setting, but most of them could be set just as easily on Mars. Given that, and given how many of her stories I'd already read, I set out to read THREE different novels set in the state of Vermont (that all SUCKED) before
...more
Stephanie
Sep 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: manic multi-taskers
If I could adopt a parent, it would be Shirley Jackson. She was a master of horror. She hated housework, but always had time to whip up a big vat of chocolate pudding. She smoked like a chimney, and (according to her youngest son, who became a nutritionist) consumed a pound of butter a day. She was married to a brilliant man, but managed to keep his gargantuan ego in check with her razor-sharp wit. She was a crazy cat lady and amateur witch. In other words, she is the mom I always wanted.

LIFE A
...more
Char
This is an hilarious autobiographical account of Shirley Jackson and her husband, raising 2, (then 3, then 4) children in a small Vermont town. I listened to the audio version, narrated by Lesa Lockford, and I thought she was excellent.

This has to be the funniest audiobook I've ever heard. It consists of vignettes regarding daily life, such as: a bus trip to the store for school clothes, with 3 children, a doll carriage, a doll, etc..., or a game of musical chairs, except it involves a sick hous
...more
Alex
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: savages
Shelves: 2019
The illimitable Shirley Jackson is smoking a cigarette in the taxicab on the way to the hospital to deliver her third child. When she arrives, she tells the desk clerk that she’s a writer. "Housewife," says the clerk. "Writer," says Shirley Jackson. The clerk says, "I’ll just put housewife."

She’s the writer of The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, among other miracles, and one of the sharpest and eeriest writers of the 20th century. Which makes it funny to read this
...more
Diane Barnes
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Right up front I will admit to never having read a Shirley Jackson novel. "The Lottery" was a short story assigned in school, but that's it. I'm not a fan of horror, even when it's well written. But memoir I can get behind, especially when it's funny.

This was screamingly funny. The conversations with her children, the things they did, her reactions to them, dealing with housework and meal preparation and budgeting money; the things housewives do day after day, in her hands sounds not only doabl
...more
Martin
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"OUR HOUSE is old, and noisy, and full. When we moved into it we had two children and about five thousand books; I expect that when we finally overflow and move out again we will have perhaps twenty children and easily half a million books".

On Naming of names
It was when Jannie was very nearly five that the question of her name became desperately important. When she was born her father wanted to name her Jean and I wanted to name her Anne, and we compromised upon an arbitrary Joanne, although I f
...more
Ann-Marie
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I first read this in 5th or 6th grade, and have probable read it four times in all. I just knew I was going to have children like hers.
I did.
Anna Luce
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
★★★★✰ 3.5 stars

Life Among the Savages is a collection of comic essays by Shirley Jackson originally published in women’s magazines. Rather than a memoir Life Among the Savages reads as a series of episodes focusing on Jackson's chaotic family life: children squabbling, disagreements with other parents, daily chores, and family dinners. Jackson renders the cacophony of her family, tinging everyday activities or conversations with a does of absurdity. Her children's back and forth are as entertai
...more
Teresa
Mar 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reread

Even as a kid, I found this book funny, even laugh-out-loud funny, and laughing out loud while reading is something I rarely do. The first time I read it (and its sequel), I was struck by the differences of 1940s life from my own; this time I noted the similarities.

Early readers of Jackson’s so-called domestic writings and early fans of her novels and short stories were two separate groups, and both had a hard time reconciling the fact that the writer of both was the same person. I never f
...more
Christopher
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've read Shirley Jackson at the peak of her form: We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

I've read Shirley Jackson at her scariest: The Haunting of Hill House.

I've read Shirley Jackson at her most psychologically incisive: The Bird's Nest.

Now I've read Shirley Jackson at her funniest. Life Among the Savages is a charming memoir of the author's domestic life. As the title implies, she is the only civilized being in the midst of an ever-increasing number of children and a husband who—well, he is a gr
...more
ALLEN
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Here's a very funny novel (actually, a compilation of interlinked stories) about a mommy, a daddy, and a powerhouse-full of children and assorted pets who give up Manhattan's crowded post-World War II real estate market for the dubious comforts of life in snowy Vermont. The author is Shirley Jackson, usually associated with macabre stories and novels like "The Lottery" and THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES is presented as fiction, but many of the incidents in this book seem to h ...more
Justin Tate
Dec 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shirley Jackson is most known for writing what the critics often call the best short story of all time and the best haunted house novel of all time. Lesser known, but no less of an achievement, is Life Among the Savages which could very well be the best novel of parenting anecdotes. Only a master writer can capture the hilarity of children rearing and Shirley Jackson proves herself an historic talent here more than ever. I laughed out loud the whole way through, and I have never raised a child.

S
...more
Jessica
I read this years ago, either before I had kids, or when I just had the one. It's hilarious, but also a fascinating look, as a mother, into another time. A time when women sat there smoking and drinking coffee on the day they were headed into the hospital to give birth. A time when you put your daughter in an organdy party dress, white frilled socks, and white gloves to go to a birthday party, and were yourself embarrassed to realize that you were wearing jeans when you met the birthday girl's m ...more
Renee
"Name?" The desk clerk said to me politely... "Age?" She asked..."Occupation?"

"Writer," I said.

"Housewife," she said.

"Writer," I said.

"I'll just put down housewife, she said.

"Husband's name?" She said..."Occupation?"

"Just put down housewife," I said.


My first delve into Shirley Jackson's non-fiction was beyond satisfying. I've read her horror, as well as Ruth Ware's fantastic biography, and now, her humour. Life Among the Savages is a sort of memoir, Jackson reflecting on the mundanity of
...more
HBalikov
May 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
Not in the class of Erma Bombeck, not even Peg Bracken. Jackson intends to evoke humor from her family as they grow up in the New England hinterlands but this isn't her forte. She hits the right note on only a few situations, such as the last moments of her second pregnancy. Otherwise, I winced more than smiled.
Kaethe Douglas
Shirley Jackson and her husband had four kids. Apparently her deep understanding of the human psyche extends just as well into humor as it does into horror.
Annie
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I don't know what I had expected of Shirley Jackson's domestic memoir. Heartfelt authenticity, sure. A characteristic tone that is sensible instead of sentimental, of course. But it wasn't such endearing humour. I do wish it was longer - even though the vignettes are about the mundane aspects of daily life (albeit with serious moments that shed light on her family's financial struggles), Shirley presents them in such a gripping, charming way.
Juli
I was reading The Haunting of Hill House when I discovered that Author Shirley Jackson also wrote humorous short stories about her life in Vermont raising three children in the 40's and 50's. The stories were originally printed in popular magazines and collected in two books, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons.

I am amazed that an author I love for her incredi-creepy, low key horror stories could also write such funny commentary on being a parent. From her son's daily stories about a naug
...more
Lauren
Feb 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: comedy, memoir
For someone with neither kids nor any interest in having kids, I have read a weirdly large number of memoirs about parenting. Shirley Jackson's Life Among the Savages is, though slight, perfectly charming and funny. (It probably bears mentioning that it's tonally nothing like her fiction, although this book does in fact contain chaos and poltergeists and slippery identity.) It's all madcap and mostly lighthearted, but with a thread of genuine frustration running throughout that gives it a likabl ...more
Julie
Our house is old, and noisy, and full. When we moved into it we had two children and about five thousand books; I expect that when we finally overflow and move out again we will have perhaps twenty children and easily half a million books; we also own assorted beds and tables and chairs and rocking horses and lamps and doll dresses and ship models and paint brushes and literally thousands of socks.

Gosh, I never would have thought I'd be this into a non-fiction domestic memoir? But seriously: if
...more
Melissa
Simultaneously laugh out loud funny and so dated that it made me cringe, this is a delightful good time if you can get past the fact that Jackson's husband is completely unable to do any sort of domestic task or discipline his children edited to add: and was also apparently cheating on Shirley for most of their marriage.
Kirstin
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shirley Jackson writes, in her brilliant deadpan humour, a slice-of-life memoir of raising children. Funny and sweet.
Danine
Mar 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Suzanne
I love this book. I don't know how many times I laughed out loud and startled members of my family.

The life of a housewife with four children, a husband, a dog and two cats doesn't seem like it could be a lot of fun but Shirley Jackson does exactly this. Even though this book of short stories was published in the early 1950s the chaos of a daily life still ring true. This is supposedly a "moderately fictionalized memoir" of Jackson's life with her children. It is a light hearted book that bring
...more
Beth Bonini
Oct 25, 2016 rated it liked it
My grandmother (born in 1922, six years after Shirley Jackson) had a pretty miserable childhood and a pretty miserable marriage, too - but she had a way of turning those gothic horrors into comic grist for the mill. I remember her always joking, always being relentlessly "twinkly." She was also dangerously overweight for most of her adult life. Many years later, my mother described her - and so many women of her generation - as (literally) eating her pain.

When I was reading this so-called memoir
...more
Belle
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An old favorite that I’ll never tire of reading.

Since the children I use to have continue to make attempts to flee our home i particularly enjoyed the chapter about the family’s cats the most this time.

I just mean to say the story holds my attention every time I read it at all these different seasons in my life.
Alejandra
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Unexpectedly cute and funny.
Venessa
Nov 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely brilliant. In addition to giving the world shattering books of keen psychological insight into the secret, dark soul of humanity, Jackson was also a loving mother of four, and here provides us with a generous helping of her wit and humor in this collection of stories about her family, turning everyday mishaps and adventures into something more - I almost even want to have kids now after reading this book to see what kind of hilarity would ensue within our own lives. And then reread an ...more
Dan
Jul 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Shirley Jackson's hilarious chronicle of New England domesticity, with precocious children (I love Sally, personally), disinterested husband, and Jackson herself as harried, neurotic wife. The grippe episode alone is worth five stars. The sequel, "Raising Demons," isn't quite as good, but it's still very funny and gives baby Barry a chance to become his own little person.
Mauoijenn
When I read the sentence about her daughter Jannie talking of a far away voice that sang to her from the corner of the room, I was like... YES, JACKSON IS GOING TO GET CREEPY NOW! No, I was wrong. But instead we get a glimpse of what every day life was like for Jackson and her house full of children. I enjoyed this book very much and am glad I picked it up.
Holly
Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book I ever read where I said, "I want to be able to write like that." I read it when I was maybe 10, borrowed from my mother's shelves.

If you want to know the single greatest influence on my writing style, this is it.

Also, it never fails to make me laugh until I cry.
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4,973 followers
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
...more

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Jacksons (2 books)
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