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