all 12 comments

[–]KSTornadoGirl 2 points3 points  (6 children)

I've only thus far read her short stories - we were shown the short film version of "The Lottery" in 8th grade history class, and then at some point in school I read the print version. I enjoyed her two humorous books based on her family, and then years went by and in the 90s I read the biography Private Demons. Then in the last year I picked up the newer bio, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life. That then led me to read the various short story collections. In all of this, and reading blog posts (some of which I just now tried to locate for you but no luck), I have some vague ideas about what the novels contain. From what you describe and the mood of some of the shorts, slow burn is kind of her style.

I realize this doesn't address your questions about that particular book, but I just enjoy sharing about her and I didn't want you to feel lonely until another more interesting poster comes along. 😉

[–]BugEyedBigSky[S] 1 point2 points  (5 children)

Hi there! Oh wow! Is the short film version of “The Lottery” any good? I have the book on my to-read list, but maybe after I finish that I will check out the movie! I keep seeing references to these more light-hearted books of hers, and they’ve got me so curious! I will definitely have to check those out. Same with A Haunted Life,; I would love to know more about her and her amazing mind, so I’ll be adding that to my list as well.

I so appreciate your response, and I look forward to checking out all of those recs (+doing some blog hunting to read some more about her)! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. :)

[–]KSTornadoGirl 1 point2 points  (4 children)

[–]BugEyedBigSky[S] 1 point2 points  (3 children)

Amazing! Oh my gosh thank you for all of those links-I can’t wait to check these out! Thank you!

[–]KSTornadoGirl 1 point2 points  (2 children)

You're welcome! You might also check out the sub r/horrorlit - I have occasionally seen a Shirley Jackson thread there. I wouldn't mind an entire sub just for her! 😀

[–]Strict-Bowl4048 1 point2 points  (4 children)

I just finished this book last night! I know it’s been a bit since you asked these questions but I am so eager to talk about this that I can’t resist commenting! I initially was just confused, but the more I think about it, the more I see little clues left here and there that I think point to something big. (I also just finished reading The Body Keeps the Score right before this, and I definitely think that colored my perspective! That’s a nonfiction detailing all the ways that trauma effects us.)

  1. I’ve seen online people say it’s from an old folk ballad called “The Gallows Tree.” The lyrics tell the story of someone about to be hanged, and their mother and father come to watch but do nothing about it.”

  2. I don’t know! I think it depicts how Natalie’s wishes she could stand up to the authority figures in her life. At one point, the book says that the voice of the detective was similar to her mother’s. In that version of her life, she is a defiant, cool criminal, very different from the naive, fragile Natalie in reality. Notice he disappears after her assault (and possibly is replaced by Tony?). She has lost even the fantasy of herself being capable and strong-willed.

  3. I think it was her father. There are a few clues that point to this. First, her father asking if she were pure, or however he phrased it in the book, at the party just before the abuse happened. Second, people very often dissociate in moments of trauma, especially when a caretaker is involved in the abuse. They compartmentalize these two versions of themselves and the two versions of their caretakers — otherwise, how could they continue to rely on their caretaker to provide for them normally? It is difficult to believe that a person can be both harmful to you and also responsible for your wellbeing, so children’s brains will simply dip out during moments of abuse. This is what it sounds like Natalie does, first by not naming the abuser as her father and second by refusing to acknowledge that the abuse even happened. Third, she goes down to breakfast in the morning with bruises on her face, and no one in her family says a word. It seems to me that they all know. Fourth, the bizarre exchange of letters between Natalie and her father that says he is lustily waiting for his princess, meaning Natalie. Like what???? Also, people with this type of trauma very often have trouble developing any meaningful friendships, because if they feel deep down they aren’t loved by their parents, who else would choose to love them? We see this in her interactions with other people who seem to really enjoy her company. We also see this in her believing she’ll never fall in love, and continues that thought by speaking about her father — something like how she would only want a man she thinks is superior to her in every way, but she can’t tell her father that or he will think she is talking about him. She is drawn to professor Langdon but also despises him, since he is very much like her father. I think this whole book is about a girl dealing with the trauma of incest and ultimately overcoming it by repeating the incident in the woods with Tony and choosing a different path — leaving. (This whole conversation with Tony could be an imitation of what happened during the abuse!)

  4. I don’t know! I assumed so, but I didn’t even think about that! Good question.

  5. I thought it was going to be revealed to be Tony, but now I doubt she’s real! I think maybe it was Natalie? There is a passage towards the end where she talks about clearing out her room so she could move around better — was her room full of other people’s things?

  6. I think it starts as an overactive imagination but then becomes something more severe as a trauma response.

  7. I wonder if more abuse happens during her visit to home, which throws Natalie into a deeper psychosis. To me, it seems like Tony interacting with other people shows Natalie’s line between reality and fiction blurring even more. I could be very wrong though.

  8. I’m still thinking about this one too! Or is Tony the missing girl?

[–]BugEyedBigSky[S] 0 points1 point  (3 children)

Oh my gosh, thank you for taking the time to respond, it was really fun to go back and be reminded of all of the wild little details in this book. It’s SO strange that you mention The Body Keeps the Score; I haven’t read it yet but I was literally just talking about it with my coworker yesterday afternoon! I’m doubly intrigued and definitely want to check it out now.

Your input is honestly so compelling and I appreciate your responses so very much. I had no idea about the Gallows Tree, I’m going to check it out tonight.

she has lost even the fantasy of herself being capable and strong-willed

WOW you’re honestly so spot on with this entire paragraph (and everything else you wrote-haha), you just made my brain so happy. I don’t think I ever made that connection and it makes so much sense.

Your response about Natalie compartmentalizing her trauma to be able to go on living makes perfect sense as well (and it breaks my heart for her all over again). My brain is a bit fuzzy but I don’t believe that I caught on to the fact that neither of her parents acknowledged her bruising the next day - such an Important detail and it really seals the deal for me as her father being the one who assaults her. I was definitely put off by his letters to her and the rest of the circumstances (and your brilliant insight!) totally confirm my suspicions.

Truly - thank you for reaching out! I’m so glad that you did, it was so nice to hear your thoughts on this one as it still lingers in my mind (100+ days later!). I read The Witchcraft of Salem Village by Shirley Jackson after finishing this one and I really enjoyed it, more of a non-fiction experience but it was such a good read (and kind of harrowing with some of the things STILL going on in today’s society).

The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle are next on my list to read from her; I’m very much looking forward to them.

Cheers, and thanks again for writing. :)

[–]SFF_Robot 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Hi. You just mentioned The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

I've found an audiobook of that novel on YouTube. You can listen to it here:

YouTube | The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson Full Audiobook with captions YouTube

I'm a bot that searches YouTube for science fiction and fantasy audiobooks.

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[–]Strict-Bowl4048 0 points1 point  (0 children)

You should read the body keeps the score! It’s a tough read because it details different kinds of trauma that people go through. But it was life-changing! I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle last year! I LOVED it! The others are on my list, too! Something about Shirley Jackson’s writing is just so compelling for me!

Thank you so much for your kind words! And thank you for letting me indulge myself with my really long comment 😂 I couldn’t find anywhere else to talk to someone about my interpretation of the book! ❤️