Winner • National Book Critics Circle Award (Biography)
Winner • Edgar Award (Critical/Biographical)
Winner • Bram Stoker Award (Nonfiction)
A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Pick of the Year
Named one of the Best Books of the Year by Entertainment Weekly, NPR, TIME, Boston Globe, NYLON, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Kirkus Reviews, and Booklist
In this “thoughtful and persuasive” biography, award-winning biographer Ruth Franklin establishes Shirley Jackson as a “serious and accomplished literary artist” (Charles McGrath, New York Times Book Review).
Instantly heralded for its “masterful” and “thrilling” portrayal (Boston Globe), Shirley Jackson reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the literary genius behind such classics as “The Lottery” and The Haunting of Hill House. In this “remarkable act of reclamation” (Neil Gaiman), Ruth Franklin envisions Jackson as “belonging to the great tradition of Hawthorne, Poe and James” (New York Times Book Review) and demonstrates how her unique contribution to the canon “so uncannily channeled women’s nightmares and contradictions that it is ‘nothing less than the secret history of American women of her era’ ” (Washington Post). Franklin investigates the “interplay between the life, the work, and the times with real skill and insight, making this fine book a real contribution not only to biography, but to mid-20th-century women’s history” (Chicago Tribune). “Wisely rescu[ing] Shirley Jackson from any semblance of obscurity” (Lena Dunham), Franklin’s invigorating portrait stands as the definitive biography of a generational avatar and an American literary genius.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
You don’t have to be familiar with Shirley Jackson’s writing to find her biography fascinating. (If you’ve never read her creepy masterpiece—The Haunting of Hill House—we guarantee this book will bump to the top of your list.) Ruth Franklin connects the dots between Jackson’s eccentric ancestry and strained upbringing and her artistic interests in houses and the supernatural. She also relates vivid portraits of Jackson’s home life and the literary world that Jackson and her professor husband inhabited, creating a relatable and gripping portrait of a woman trying to balance work and family, ultimately crumbling under the strain.
Literary critic Franklin (A Thousand Darknesses) renders a gripping and graceful portrait of the mind, life, and work of groundbreaking American author Shirley Jackson (1916 1965). Though Jackson is today largely known for the chilling novel The Haunting of Hill House and the supremely upsetting short parable "The Lottery," Franklin brings forth her full oeuvre for careful study, including a prodigious number of short stories, books for young adults and children, and perhaps improbably for a horror writer two bestselling memoirs about life with her four children, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons. Franklin's adept readings of Jackson's influences, formative relationships, and major works interweave the obsessions, fears, and life experiences that charge her writing with such wicked intensity. Treating her subject with a generous eye and gorgeous prose, Franklin describes one of Jackson's chief themes, a "preoccupation with the roles that women play at home and the forces that conspire to keep them there," as a product of her cultural moment, identifying Jackson's "insistence on telling unpleasant truths" about women's experience and her ability "to draw back the curtain on the darkness within the human psyche" as the elements that make Jackson a writer of lasting relevance who can still give today's readers an impressive shiver. 60 illus.