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

Hangsaman

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  3,752 ratings  ·  487 reviews
Natalie Waite, daughter of a mediocre writer and a neurotic housewife, is increasingly unsure of her place in the world. In the midst of adolescence she senses a creeping darkness in her life, which will spread among nightmarish parties, poisonous college cliques and the manipulations of the intellectual men who surround her, as her identity gradually crumbles.

Inspired by
...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published December 5th 2013 by Penguin Books (first published 1951)
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 Hangsaman, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Hangsaman

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,752 ratings  ·  487 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Hangsaman
J.
At first I wondered how complicated to get with this, because it isn't a simple story. But there isn't much you need to know, going in. A coming-of-ager but in the Bell Jar or Catcher In The Rye vein; author Shirley Jackson's quirky, truthful-feeling book hits home with force, if not exactly heart-warmingly.

A sophisticated, naive ingénue narrates her abrupt path from daughter and child to "college woman", sometimes at a singing pitch of self-discovery, sometimes reading all the signs wrongly an
...more
Alex
Jul 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Shirley Jackson writes mysteries where the mystery is, do you live in a sane world? Is it mad? Is there magic? Is it good or bad magic?

Natalie Waite isn't sure she exists at all:
Or even suppose, imagine, could it be true? that she was confined, locked away, pounding wildly against the bars on the window, attacking the keepers, biting at the doctors, screaming down the corridors that she was someone named Watalie Naite..."

And later: "'We are on a carpet,' she announced soberly. 'It unrolls in fro
...more
Fionnuala
I read three Shirley Jackson novels this month.

The first was a bookgroup choice to celebrate Hallow'een, the eerily entitled Haunting of Hill House. I didn't write a review as it inspired few thoughts worth recording. It made me laugh a little though.

The second was We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I read it to see what I'd missed in the first, to try to figure out what there was in Jackson's writing that made other people rave about it. And there were some great paragraphs, and I liked the i
...more
Aniko Carmean
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have never read anything like HANGSAMAN. It is chilling, hyper-surreal, and told with a mind-altering narrative voice. HANGSAMAN is like shooting a cocktail of vodka and meth: it's weird, burns like hell, and you don't come down from those fever dreams the same person you were before the experience.

The most amazing thing about HANGSAMAN is that, on the surface, nothing happens. A girl, Natalie, attends a dinner party where she is possibly assaulted, starts college, drinks a lot of martinis wi
...more
James Everington
Hangsaman is a strange novel by any standards; as if trying to remember a dream I feel the urge to write this blog quickly as I can, before it’s unique internal logic fades from my mind. Its central character is Natalie Whaite, a seventeen-year old American girl on the verge of going to college. The surface level events of the story are mundane, trite even: Natalie has bourgeois parents, and goes to a respectable girls-only college. But what happens externally is not really the point; this is a ...more
E. G.
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Foreword, by Francine Prose

--Hangsaman
Teresa
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reread

More often than not, the covers of Shirley Jackson’s books are wildly inaccurate as to what’s inside.

I didn’t connect with this the first time I read it; maybe I needed a lot of distance from my own seventeen-year-old self. Being in someone’s head, at least as rendered by Jackson, is intense. Natalie describes her state of mind as so close… to the irrational and so tempted by it (page 130)— what she’s experiencing throughout is the process of individuation.

In the first section, as Natali
...more
Moira Russell
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
PATHETICALLY EXCITED to have this on the Kindle, I have a tattered old paperback with this cover:





http://www.rockin-r.net/~karl/shirley...
...more
Blair
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The opening chapter of Hangsaman is a confidence trick. (Also something that could be said of the book as a whole.) I wondered, at first, whether it was really for me. It seems to be offering a portrait of a middle-class American family in typical 1950s suburbia. The protagonist is their 17-year-old daughter, Natalie, and the lengthy scene depicts the Waites preparing for a garden party. While beautifully written, it contains little to intrigue other than Natalie's internal flights of fancy, the ...more
Lee Foust
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It occurred to me, back in October, that I probably read a lot more male authors than female--not because--at least I hope not because--I'm sexist, but because my culture is and one is nothing if not a product of many crosscurrents of life--culture, family, language, education, etc. etc. So, thanks to Goodreads I was able to chart just exactly how gender-skewed my reading is: 2012: 3/18, 2013: 11/45, 2014: 9/26, 2015: 8/41. Even by consciously choosing those books by females on my to-read shelf ...more
nostalgebraist
I've loved several of Shirley Jackson's other books but this time the magic spell didn't work on me, and when a spell fails, one is left with little to do but gawk at the occult paraphernalia involved in its casting, which are bound to ultimately seem at once baffling and quaint.

Some of Jackson's other books are expertly engineered spell-casting machines, the parameters of every pentacle chosen for optimal potency, no sigil lacking even the smallest significant curlicue. This one is more of a Ru
...more
Anna Luce
★★★★✰ 4 stars

“Dearest dearest darling most important dearest darling Natalie—this is me talking, your own priceless own Natalie.”


Alice in Wonderland meets The Bell Jar in Jackson's much overlooked Hangsaman.
The first time I read this I felt confused. Although Jackson demonstrates her usual sharp humour and rhythmic writing style, the story seemed far less structured than her other novels.
A second reading however made me much more appreciative of this weird anti-bildungsroman. What I previously
...more
Kathleen
“I wish I were the only person in all the world, Natalie thought, with a poignant longing, thinking then that perhaps she was, after all.”

Shirley Jackson always takes you to a place where you don’t know what is real and what isn’t. In this one, she really goes out there. WAY out there. Deep into a dark forest, as a matter of fact, where I was so confused I still have no idea what was going on.

I was reminded of the Winchester Mystery House. It’s known for stairways that lead to nowhere and doors
...more
Ilana
Edit: This was not a an actual review, but a very emotional and troubled response to what was an experience rather than a proper reading. I felt this book viscerally more than just read it. I wish I'd kept at distance from it so I could have appreciated it more. I've read a couple of reviews that made me appreciate it better, and I'm thankful for that. My perspective on it is definitely skewed, so you really shouldn't base your decision on it to decide whether you should read this novel or no ...more
Fiona MacDonald
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-books
Enjoyable, weird, eerie, creepy, disjointed, dreamlike, fantastical. No more words.
Obsidian
Look, just know that this book is weird. It switches from first to third person sometimes too. And then you honestly don't know what's real or not real so you feel very confused at times. And you also may end up not liking anyone (I know I didn't) but may come away feeling sorry for Natalie (I did) and then just confused again. Just go read Moonlight Reader's REVIEW of this book since it will make way more sense than my mutterings about things below.

First, Natalie and her family are messed up. Y
...more
Wendi Lee
I've enjoyed Shirley Jackson's novels and short stories in the past, but Hangsaman just wasn't for me. I vacillated between confusion (what was happening? Who was real, and who was imagined?) and boredom. This is a novel of Natalie Waite, leaving her family home for college. What seems at first to be a place of new friendships and experiences soon turns out to be etched with loneliness and madness.

The blurb tells us that this novel was based on a real life disappearance of a college student in
...more
Robert
Hangsaman, originally published in 1951, has always been my favorite of Shirley Jackson's early novels. It's a strange sort of psychological study-cum-bildungsroman that has always been marketed as a suspense novel—which it really isn't. Shirley Jackson has always been a hard-to-classify writer, and that's likely one of the reasons I love her. She's Her Own Thing, as so many of the best things in life happen to be. Hangsaman is an uneven book, but this somehow this works to its advantage in a we ...more
Susan
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1951, this is Shirley Jackson’s second novel. In her first, “The Road Through the Wall,” Jackson looked to her childhood for inspiration. In this, her second, she centres on a Bennington like liberal arts school, such as the one her husband worked at. Having read a couple of biographies of Shirley Jackson, there is obviously much about both this first novels which are based upon her own experiences. There are also many hints of her future style, with similar themes running through h ...more
John Pappas
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hangsaman makes the case that it is an oversight of enormous proportions that the literary reputation of Shirley Jackson rests upon a handful of (albeit, perfectly constructed) short stories. One might hope that the 2013 Penguin reprints of her novels would correct this and help begin a critical re-evaluation of her work; certainly, one can see the roots of the critically acclaimed work of Russell, Van Den Berg, Bender and others in the mystery, humor and terror of Hangsaman. This novel, not Pla ...more
Steve
Jul 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hangsaman, for me at least, is one of those books that, after you finish reading, you have to look to an external source to tell you what the
hell you have just read. I'm still not sure. For awhile I wasn't even sure if one of the characters, Tony, was real.

It may not capture the reader to the extent that We have Always Lived in the Castle, but one cannot help but be drawn into Natalie's world
of paranoia. Shirley Jackson's characters are spellbinding even if their journeys are not always.

Lookin
...more
Stephen Curran
Aug 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All the time while I was reading Hangsaman I was waiting to find out what kind of novel it is. Having read We Have Always Lived in the Castle and knowing a little of Shirley Jackson's reputation, I was expecting it turn to into a Gothic melodrama or a supernatural chiller, but even four fifths of the way through, it refused to take a shape I recognised.

The first part sees Natalie Waite suffering her family at home, the second sees her suffering the poisonous student/teacher relationships at her
...more
Maureen
Nov 07, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
awful. i love shirley jackson but this was painful to get through. i forced myself to finish it. one wonders if it was simply published as a result of the success of the lottery and the sundial (both of which are referenced on the front and back copy of my edition), in that moment where an agent or editor flush with eagerness, and says, "you don't have anything else kicking around that we can publish now, do you?", and a writer unwisely unveils their first "great" unpublished novel, and is undon ...more
Whitney
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Imagine if Henry James' Turn of the Screw met with Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club. And turn all the men into chicks.
Denisse
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know I'll be reading this novel again in some years. The kind of story which the more you think about it, less sense it makes but a better impression it lefts. Written with a strong, yet suppressed, voice that always goes further than a normal mind when it overthinks a situation. Hangsaman is the proof that supports the phrase "Shirley Jackson had talent", although her talent is a bit uncomfortable and bizarre. A contained intensity is what this book and the main character, Natalie, have. The ...more
T.D. Whittle
This is a quote from Shirley Jackson's NYT obituary:
"Because Miss Jackson wrote so frequently about ghosts and witches and magic, it was said that she used a broomstick for a pen. But the fact was that she used a typewriter--and then only after she had completed her household chores."

Jackson had an abiding interest in magic, myth, and ritual. She collected grimoires and cats, and allegedly enjoyed gossip about her being a witch.* Whatever spells she used, the typewriter under the influence of Ja
...more
Ruthiella
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"It then became perfectly clear to her that this was the reasonable consequence of all her life, from the beginning until now. She had done so much to preserve herself from this kind of captivity and had taken inevitably one of the many roads which would lead her to the same torment; she was helpless among people who hated her and showed it by holding her motionless until they would choose to release her. .”

I was very curious about Jackson’s early novels that have been brought back into print in
...more
Hannah
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very strange novel with a strong beginning (unfortunately, a very confusing end), Shirley Jackson's Hangsaman is another well-written piece of horror.
Tanya
Oct 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an exceptionally bizarre, disorienting little novel. I finished it earlier tonight and it already feels like one of those very vivid dreams that dissipate as soon as you wake up—or maybe a disjointed fever-dream would be the more apt metaphor. It's hard to describe, and I've never read anything like it. Partly inspired by the real disappearance of a college girl in 1946, and partly a satire of campus life at the time, there is little plot to speak of—nothing really happens, on the surface, ...more
Christopher
Edited 3/2/18 to his some spoilers.

This has the feeling of a midcentury classic to me; it feels like something a character on Mad Men would read. It's a subtle, vague, mindbending thing full of ennui, and I think it's Shirley Jackson's most complex novel. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is perfect in its simplicity. The Haunting of Hill House is frightening in its single-mindedness. Hangsaman, however, is beautiful in virtue of its untidiness.

Hangsaman is a puzzle with several pieces missin
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Hangsaman: what happened? 3 135 Sep 30, 2014 12:44AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life
  • Shirley
  • The Vet's Daughter
  • Death in Her Hands
  • In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology
  • White is for Witching
  • The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright
  • The Well
  • Antkind
  • The Devil's Kiss (The Devil, #1)
  • A Children's Bible
  • Tinfoil Butterfly
  • Eileen
  • In the Dream House: A Memoir
  • Yokohama Threeway: And Other Small Shames
  • Little Weirds
  • Nightingale Wood
  • The Sweet Flypaper of Life
See similar books…
5,081 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

Related Articles

Mexican Gothic begins when happily ever after turns into a nightmare. The story unfolds with the Taboada family receiving a mysterious letter from ...
134 likes · 24 comments
“Perhaps tomorrow I shall pick up one of the houses, any one, and, holding it gently in one hand, pull it carefully apart with my other hand, with great delicacy taking the pieces of it off one after another: first the door and then, dislodging the slight nails with care, the right front corner of the house, board by board, and then, sweeping out the furniture inside, down the right wall of the house, removing it with care and not touching the second floor, which should remain intact even after the first floor is entirely gone. Then the stairs, step by step, and all this while the mannikins inside run screaming from each section of the house to a higher and a more concealed room, crushing one another and stumbling and pulling frantically, slamming doors behind them while my strong fingers pull each door softly off its hinges and pull the walls apart and lift out the windows intact and take out carefully the tiny beds and chairs; and finally they will be all together like seeds in a pomegranate, in one tiny room, hardly breathing, some of them fainting, some crying, and all wedged in together looking in the direction from which I am coming, and then, when I take the door off with sure careful fingers, there they all will be, packed inside and crushed back against the wall, and I shall eat the room in one mouthful, chewing ruthlessly on the boards and the small sweet bones.” 7 likes
“The gap between the poetry she wrote and the poetry she contained was, for Natalie, something unsolvable” 7 likes
More quotes…