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3.40  ·  Rating details ·  1,117 ratings  ·  249 reviews
Two imposing literary figures are at the center of this captivating novel: the celebrated Shirley Jackson, best known for her short story The Lottery, and her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, a literary critic and professor at Bennington College. When a young graduate student and his pregnant wife—Fred and Rose Nemser—move into Shirley and Stanley’s home in the fall of 1964, ...more
Hardcover, 270 pages
Published June 12th 2014 by Blue Rider Press (first published June 12th 2013)
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Average rating 3.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,117 ratings  ·  249 reviews

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Justin Tate
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly exceeds expectations! Shirley Jackson is an author of legendary talent, and I'll admit to being hesitant about having anyone tread on such sacred ground. Have no fear! This story weaves Jackson's biography into a tale that's nearly as Gothic as one of her novels. Astonishingly, it makes Shirley an even more intriguing figure than I could ever imagine. Some critics argue that it depicts her too negatively, but I disagree. She could be a very disagreeable person, by all historical accou ...more
Deborah Markus
Aug 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shirley Jackson is like Jane Austen: she only lived to write six novels and she died in her forties, leaving the tantalizing beginnings of a novel unlike any other she'd written. Both authors have shelves of their very own in my apartment, because I have multiple editions of everything they ever wrote as well as lots of books about the writers and their work.

Austen is the greater writer of the two, but I have to say that Jackson is my favorite. Not just of the pair, but of all time. Austen taugh
Diane S ☔
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
3.5 There is very little dialogue in this story, it is told in narrative style. Our narrator is Rose, telling her story from a 10 yr. distance. A story when she was a young wife and mother, only nineteen years old. She and her husband Fred, who has taken a job at Bennington College, move I to the house of Shirley Jackson and her husband , the professor and literary critic, Stanley Edgar Hyman.

This is a book with an undercurrent of psychological suspense, the house, the family, Shirley herself, a
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Several weekends ago I watched the movie Shirley. It’s a good movie, satisfying in a number of ways. But I was increasingly bothered by its pretense that Jackson had no children—who, in real life, were a huge part of Jackson’s life and work. The movie makes no claim at being a biopic, but the children’s nonexistence came to seem, to me, lazy—as if the filmmakers couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to incorporate children in the story they wanted to tell.

I turned to the novel the movie was ba
(3.5) Flying back from America the other week, I must have started about a dozen different books on my Nook, but none of them ‘took’ until this one. It’s a gently creepy psychological thriller that imagines a young married couple boarding with Shirley Jackson and her husband, Stanley Hyman, while the two men were professors at Bennington College in Vermont in 1964.

Our narrator is Rose Nemser, married and pregnant at just 19. Stuck at home during the days, she observes all the inner workings of t
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
OMG, where do I start?

This was on the library's New shelf. I picked it up totally serendipity, not having any idea or preview or trailer or GR's friends' suggestion. Nothing preconceived.

And I'm sure it will make my top 5 this year. Because it is that rare, rare sample of idealism coupled with innocence, art, literary critique, emotional quotient and cerebral concepts in writing- all of that good stuff, squarely hitting the reality of individual human life fan. Worse, the real Academia fan. Far
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Susan Scarf Merrell’s novel Shirley is a fun and new way to explore the world of Shirley Jackson. Merrell’s work is extremely well-written and achieves a vibe very similar to Jackson’s own work. I had not heard much about this book before reading it, but I became intrigued in checking it out before the upcoming movie adaptation. Shirley, a novel labeled as a psychological thriller, manages to tell a new and fictionalized tale of mystery while also combining aspects from Jackson’s life and backgr ...more
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5, rounded up.

This is a decidedly odd amalgamation of fictionalized biography and psychological thriller that intentionally apes Jackson's own work. It doesn't QUITE work, mainly because of a perhaps too reverent reading of the character of Jackson herself, plus a mystery that doesn't really hold much tension - the conclusion is foreshadowed really before one finishes the first few chapters. It is mainly centered on the narrator's own fascination (she calls it love) for the author, juxtaposed
Lolly K Dandeneau
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book was so good I had to keep reminding myself it was a fictional account. I could not put it down. Shirley is a fictional account about a young couple's year living with the author Shirley Jackson, her husband Stanley Hyman and their children.Newly married and pregnant Rose, with her professor husband Fred move into the home of the Hyman's that seems itself to be alive, full of secrets and mysteries. Both become consumed by the couple for different reasons.
A long ago disappearance of a be
juicy brained intellectual
Oct 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ebooks, do-not-own
pretty bad and unsatisfying as a psychological thriller + weird in an also bad, gimmicky way as fictionalized imagining of shirley and her family. seems like merrell wanted to write a book in jackson's vein (unreliable neurotic girl narrator) but she unfortunately does not have the same gift for turn of phrase and her attempt to make the jackson home a character à la the haunting does not particularly work. constant inorganic name-dropping of titles from shirley's oeuvre. a fantastic waste of re ...more
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was totally mesmerizing from start to finish. How many of us booklovers cannot attest to becoming obsessed by our favorite authors? This book is an homage to obsession!
We meet Rose and her husband Fred who move in with Shirley Jackson and her husband Stanley Hyman. Rose is in awe of Shirley. She sees in her the mother she wished she had and she sees her as a friend. She is drawn to her magnetism, her larger than life personality.
There is an underlying tension in the book; an ominous f
Jun 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
A fictionalized account of a couple cohabiting with real-life horror writer Shirley Jackson, and her husband Stanley Hyman, this was disappointing to me. Jackson makes horror out of the mundane, while Merrell tries the reader's patience with anticlimactic denouement and distracting literary quotes. I finished it; I love the idea of it, but meh. ...more
May 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Susan Scarf Merrell’s "Shirley: A Novel" is a psychological thriller about a young woman who lives for a year in the home of celebrated writer Shirley Jackson in the 1960s. Merrell mingles the real and the fictional in an interesting fashion, and provides a compelling character study of Jackson. The novel, however, did not captivate me as much as I had hoped.

The Story: A young woman named Rose Nemser, newly married and soon to become a mother, comes to live in the home of Shirley Jackson and her
Dec 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shirley Jackson is my favorite writer, so the idea of a novel in which she is a character both entices and, well, alarms. Susan Merrell has, I think, succeeded amazingly well in getting onto the page a person you can believe is Shirley Jackson. Beyond even that, Merrell has imagined an anxiety-inducing, irresistible story—of a young couple that come to live with Jackson and her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, in Bennington—that is not only a fine homage to Jackson but almost feels like a story she ...more
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-review
ARC for review.

This is described as a psychological thriller, but don't expect twists, turns and suspense. It's really more of a character study of the Shirley Jackson of the author's imagination. Rose is a very young wife and expectant mother from a difficult background. She and her grad student (or professor? Aspiring professor?) husband go to Bennington College so he can work and finish his dissertation and they live with his mentor Stanley Hyman and his wife Shirley Jackson. Jackson has alr
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As a Bennington College grad myself, whose mother studied with Stanley Hyman at Bennington, I have long been fascinated with Shirley Jackson. I remember being a little girl and visiting the college, my mother saying, “She lived in that house,” while pointing at the great white, columned façade on Prospect Street, a steep-sloping lane that leads to the back entrance of the campus. Many years later, I lived in what was known as the Pink House, just a few houses down from Shirley Jackson’s house, m ...more
Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
Merrell's penchant for telling rather than showing, her eye for visual and musical details, makes Shirley more of a movie scenario than a novel. The narrator Rose, a newly pregnant and married nineteen-year-old comes to the home of Shirley Jackson and Stanley Edgar Hyman near Bennington College so her husband Fred can help Hyman teach a course on folklore while Rose helps Hyman's wife, the psychologically fragile author Shirley Jackson, keep the household from falling into chaos. Rose becomes sm ...more
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Mesmerizing, odd, and yes, Jackson-esque novel featuring Shirley Jackson and Stanley Hyman as hosts to a graduate student and his young, pregnant wife Rose. Rose becomes obsessed with Shirley and with the disappearance of student, and so do we the readers. Very well done!
This book was more literary in nature than I expected it to be and I found myself getting dragged into the story easily in the beginning. The story, however, got more confusing and vague with each passing chapter. There were many questions left unanswered and situations left up to the readers interpretation. A young couple, Rose and Fred, spend a year living with writer Shirley Jackson and her husband Stanley Hyman. Fred gets an opportunity to work under Stanley at the college nearby. Rose and F ...more
If nothing else, you have to admire Susan Scarf Merrell's guts.

It takes a little something to base a novel on a year in the life of a writer whose work most people aren't familiar with; more to do it in such a way as to be an intertextual homage to that author. That's not just gutsy, it's horribly niche in terms of marketing. And yet.

Shirley Jackson, whose short story "The Lottery" may be a staple of high school anthologies but whose novels (excepting the magnificent The Haunting of Hill House)
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I could not have found a better book to wrap up my 'year of reading Shirley,' especially immediately after reading her new biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life. Now I feel like I "really know" her, and what it was like to live with her. A fictionalized account of a young academic and his wife living with Shirley and her husband (Stanley Hyman) for a year in Bennington VT, this is nearly as well-researched as her bio. Many events that really happened are recounted or alluded to here, ...more
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I received this book for free through the Goodreads First Reads program and it may well be my favorite of all the books I have won to date. It is the fictionalized story of young newlyweds Rose and Fred Nemser who come to live for a time with actual literary couple Shirley Jackson and Stanley Edgar Hyman. The story contains persistent undertones of dysfunction, betrayal, mental illness and death and there is a wonderful gothic heaviness to the writing. I found myself mesmerized by this book and ...more
 Reading Reindeer 2021 On Proxima Centauri
Reading this
novel is akin to the changing perspectives an optometrist delivers with his or her lenses during a vision exam: first, we see Shirley Jackson, fine writer, from afar; change a lens- we see her in person-homemaker, wife, mother; another lens, through her husband's eyes, her children's perspective; then another lens and she is viewed as potential mentor, mother-figure,surrogate older sister. Change the lens again; yet more perspectives reveal themselves.
LAPL Reads
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Next year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of novelist Shirley Jackson, and since she died at 48 (in her sleep, of heart failure), December 2016 will be the centenary of her birth. Best remembered for her short story "The Lottery" and her novels The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Jackson has acquired some new readers in the past year thanks to Penguin reprints of the four novels she published between 1948 and 1958, including the only one set in her ...more
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, thriller
I first read Shirley Jackson when I was in middle school. The novel "We Have Always Lived in the Castle' to be exact. I was too inexperienced to know good writing from bad but I knew it provoked some seriously intense emotions within me. Dark emotions, feelings of claustrophobia, feelings of despair and hopelessness. It really bothered me and I was hooked. Better to feel something/anything than to be bored or nonplussed. I next borrowed 'The Haunting of Hill House' from the library. I loved it. ...more
Natalie Tyler
Jul 23, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
At least ten years ago I read Merrell's "A Member of the Family" and found it memorable and haunting. I knew that there were negative reviews: Merrell dealt with a contentious issue but I was convinced that the novel was fiction and I remembered and admired its explication of deeply wounding human dilemmas. But what a falling off there has been!

As a long-time fan of Shirley Jackson, and a one-time fan of Merrell, I naturally wanted to read "Shirley". How devastated I am to report that I think th
Barksdale Penick
Sep 14, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a fictionalized account of a fragment of the life of SHirley Jackson, who wrote some wonderful short stories including the very famous The Lottery and one of my favorites, the lesser known An Ordinary Day with Peanuts. As fiction, the book tells a believable tale of life in a chaotic intellectual household with drinking, infidelity, and uproarious evenings, with a young couple who live with the established older couple when they first move to Bennington Vermont. The narrator, the young, ...more
Lisa of LaCreeperie
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very rare 5 star review from me!

Do not fret, fellow Shirley worshippers, the author has done justice to our fair literary witch. The tone is so perfectly matched with our beloved's prose, even while portraying her more unflattering traits.

I want to live in this world ALL the time. This is so well-written, so gorgeously composed, at times I was angry that I didn't write it myself.

Now to address the common question; "do I need to read any of Shirley's works to enjoy this book?" Well first my an
Paula Schumm
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Blue Rider Press for an advance copy of Shirley: A Novel.

Shirley, by Susan Scarf Merrell, is a fictional account of a young couple who go to live with the psychological thriller author Shirley Jackson and her husband Stanley Hyman in 1964. Shirley's The Haunting of Hill House is referenced several times throughout, and Rose feels the presence of Shirley's house around her. It directs and informs Rose of Shirley's feelings and movements. Shirley herself i
Jennifer Gibbons
Since I've been on a Shirley Jackson kick lately, I decided to read this novel that features Jackson as a character. Rosie is a young wife to grad student Fred. Fred gets a teaching gig at a college, then stay at Jackson's house with her husband, Stanley Hyman. Estranged from her family, Rosie becomes close to Shirley, especially when Rosie has her own child. However, there are secrets lingering in the house, ones that Rosie wants to find out about, but Shirley won't let her. A wonderful thrille ...more
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Susan Scarf Merrell is the author of Shirley: A Novel, which is soon to be major motion picture starring Elisabeth Moss and Michael Stuhlbarg. Other books are the novel A Member of the Family, and The Accidental Bond: How Sibling Connections Influence Adult Relationships. She directs the Southampton Writers Conference, is program director (along with Meg Wolitzer) of the novel-editing program, Boo ...more

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