ffb: Life Among the Savages

this is the 136th in my series of posts on forgotten or seldom read books

Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson © 1952, Penguin 1957 soft cover, humorous, slightly fictionalized autobiography

life among savagesNot much wanting to read the typical Jackson shock, scare or haunting tale, I picked this much lighter book, full of humor and insight into everyday living.

It’s a collection of short stories which were edited into an episodic novel. Originally the stories were published in magazines: Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Mademoiselle, and others. In this form the book was published in 1952, and is a moderately fictionalized memoir of life with Jackson’s own four children. Jackson narrates simply as the mother, relating, in bits and pieces, her and her family’s life in a large but shabby rental house over about six years.

Much of the narrative focuses mostly on her attempts at peaceful domestic life despite her growing family. The book begins in a situation with husband, mother, two children and about five thousand books.  Then the story backs up to leaving their city home, searching out the house they wind up living in, and moving through the events of their lives as the children grow older.

The two children are Laurie and Jannie, named for and based largely on Jackson’s two eldest children. Laurie is five, just beginning kindergarten, and “clamoring for the right to vote on domestic policies”; Jannie is nearly two. Eventually a third child, is introduced. The book closes with the birth of yet another baby, Barry.

Though it may be unkind, there is the inevitable comparison to be made with Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. There have also been comparisons to Cheaper by the Dozen and books by Erma Bombeck.

The classic situations are in all of them, children who won’t behave, cars that won’t start, furnaces that break down, a pugnacious corner bully, household help that never stays, and a patient, capable husband who remains lovingly oblivious to the many thousands of things mothers and wives deal with daily.

Far from her other writing, this is a light, enjoyable glimpse into country living.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

More Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in biography - autobiography, Friday Forgotten Book. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to ffb: Life Among the Savages

  1. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I recently picked up a copy of this and the sequel, Raising Demons, to reread (someday) as I have fond memories of reading them the first time.

  2. Jerry House says:

    Like Jeff, I have fond memories of both books. Humorous family memoirs have been around for a long time (LIFE WITH FATHER, LIFE WITH MOTHER, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, etc.), but a strong case may be made that Jackson paved the way (if not directly inspired) Jean Kerr and Erma Bombeck.

  3. Like you and Jeff, I enjoyed reading these books years ago. They are certainly the sunniest of Shirley Jackson’s books.

  4. Richard says:

    You’re all right about this being a nice book. George, “sunniest of her books” is a good description.

  5. Have not read this one.

  6. John says:

    So that’s why the name Laurie (for a boy) keeps cropping up in her stories. Just learned something new about her.

  7. Rick, are you okay? The Weather Channel has been showing scary conditions in Portland: ice and snow and freezing rain. Yikes!

  8. I didn’t realize she wrote this kind of stuff. I’m going to have to track down a copy. There always seems to come a time when this is exactly the kind of book I am in the mood for and it would be interesting to contrast this to her darker stories that I’ve read.

  9. Richard says:

    George, sorry I just saw your comment. I’m sure you saw the Sunday night/Monday post on the weather. Barbara got down the hill this morning after a night of rain cleansed the road of icy slush. We just watched it snow, freeze, snow, etc. until it was finished. All is fine.

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