Randee's Reviews > Shirley
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. It creeped me out. I felt that this was a believable and sophisticated ghost story much more impressive than any I had read to date. A few years later, I got my hands on copies of both 'Life Among the Savages' and 'Raising Demons'; her autobiographical novels of her life with her husband and children. Once again, I was utterly captivated, charmed and amused. Needless to say, I am a life long fan and own a copy of all of her work and have read many of them over and over. So, I was on high alert to be disappointed and critical of an author who dared write a story with Shirley and her husband, Stanley, as characters. This can work quite well (example: Robert Goldsborough continuing the Nero Wolfe series after Rex Stout's death) or quite badly (example: Danielle Page writing 'No Place Like Oz/Dorothy Must Die' as a continuation of the Oz series....she completely disregards the original Dorothy's character and personality and makes her into a modern day whining brat;; I am deeply offended and turned off owning 40 of the Baum Oz/Ruth Plumly Thompson, et. al, original books, so I am more than acquainted with little Dorothy who was a sweet child.) All of that being said, Susan Scarf Merrell has done a brilliant job in writing this...she brings Shirley and Stanley to life again, quite believably. She even evokes some of the haunting quality reminiscent of Shirley Jackson stories. I will even say there were some profound moments if you have lived a certain type of life that echoed all too true to me. One could read this without having heard of Shirley Jackson and Stanley Hyman, knowing nothing about them. However, it just adds innummerable layers if one is familiar with Shirley Jackson and Stanley Hyman and know about the life they led. The story does not feel like a stretch, it feels like a 'true' story and sends a shiver down the spine.
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