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Life Among the Savages

(Jacksons #1)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  3,823 ratings  ·  589 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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4.04  · 
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 ·  3,823 ratings  ·  589 reviews


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Char (Tacky Genre Buff)
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
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
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
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
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
Kaethe
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.
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
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
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
Annie Rosewood
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
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.
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.
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.
Shawn
It may (or may not) be surprising that alongside my lifelong interest in macabre and supernatural fiction, I also have a very keen interest in humor & comedy. So it was kind of inevitable that my recent focus on Shirley Jackson (Just an Ordinary Day: The Uncollected Stories) would direct me towards finally giving this famous offering a read.

And, as others have noted, this is dry, low-key domestic humor as Jackson turns her wit and narrative abilities to the topics of child-rearing, homemakin
...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
Shaun
This lighthearted memoir, which will most likely appeal to any mother and/or fan of the late Shirley Jackson, gets a solid 4 stars because I am both, a mother and fan.

Thoroughly enjoying Jackson's creepy, psychological thrillers, I ordered this not realizing it was a funny true-to-life glimpse into her life as a wife and mother of four, living in rural Vermont.

I had already read several of the vignettes, which appeared in Novels and Stories, a Library of America anthology, but at the time did n
...more
Melissa McShane
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I think Shirley Jackson must be my kindred spirit. She's as bad a cook as I am and resorts to many of the same tricks I did to keep my brood of four under control. It's hard to see in this funny, clever, sometimes overwhelmed housewife the author of The Haunting of Hill House and "The Lottery." On the other hand, who else would be in a position to see the best and the worst of people than a woman living in a small Vermont town? Subject matter aside, Jackson's unique style is the same here as in ...more
fleegan
Aug 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is one of Ms. Jackson's nonfiction books she wrote about raising her kids in the 1950s. It is such a funny book. Her kids are riots, and she tells a really good story. It's way different than her horror novels and while reading it you're thinking, "I can't believe she wrote The Haunting of Hill House AND this." I wish she would have written much more nonfiction stuff. Not that her fiction is bad, it's great actually. You should read some. They're very psychological.
Hákon Gunnarsson
At the beginning of this year I knew who Shirley Jackson had been, but had not read anything of her works. Now I have read two, first the short story The Lottery and and a little later this one, and I'm becoming a fan. The Lottery is a great dystopian short story, but this is so different. It's biographical to a certain extend, but it is written with such a humor that it is delightful to read.

It may not be the most accurate biography. Jackson's life with her husband Stanley Edgar Hyman was by m
...more
Becky
Jun 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
I don't think this is a great book for someone so very thoroughly "in the mothering trenches" as I am right now. While it was interesting from a historical perspective...oh, that's what my life would have been like in 1950...it all hit just a little too close to home. Why would I want to read about someone else's awkward encounters shopping with children? I live it everyday! It also didn't help that the book feels scattered, almost like she is so busy and distracted with her children that she ca ...more
Kimberly
Shirley Jackson is an astoundingly good writer. Her horror is breathtakingly frightening and this biography is breathtakingly hilarious. Both show the absurdity of the everyday. Jackson just *gets it*. She has such an understanding of people that even her stories about mundane tasks are told with wisdom and charm.

This may be a case of reading the right book at the right time, but this is definitely a new favorite. I see many rereads in my future for when I need a sweet, funny book about family
...more
Meave
Aug 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Reading this made me feel crazy. How did she not murder her children and her husband? I wanted to scream and throttle them and scream again just reading about it. It's funny and all, but it's so bleak. Just an unrelenting onslaught of demands, unceasing chaos.

Reflecting on my time as an au pair for three kids around these kids' ages, I imagine it must be love/reluctance to serve time/aversion to death that keeps the primary parent from killing their offspring and useless partner and making it al
...more
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3,781 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

Other books in the series

Jacksons (3 books)
  • Raising Demons
  • Life Among the Savages / Raising Demons
“I took my coffee into the dining room and settled down with the morning paper. A woman in New York had had twins in a taxi. A woman in Ohio had just had her seventeenth child. A twelve-year-old girl in Mexico had given birth to a thirteen-pound boy. The lead article on the woman's page was about how to adjust the older child to the new baby. I finally found an account of an axe murder on page seventeen, and held my coffee cup up to my face to see if the steam might revive me.” 25 likes
“I looked at the clock with the faint unconscious hope common to all mothers that time will somehow have passed magically away and the next time you look it will be bedtime.” 13 likes
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