Cover Image: Shirley

Shirley

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Member Reviews

2.5 stars.
Having read Ruth Franklin's extensive biography Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, I appreciated Merrell's portrayal of Shirley. Merrell's Shirley was complex and fascinating, somehow both compelling and repulsive. I could picture her in my head and hear her voice so clearly. Narrator Rose Nemser is somewhat fleshed out, but her troubled childhood and marriage is really all there is to her character. The spotlight is kept firmly centered on Shirley and and by extension Stanley, which was fascinating and easily drew me into the story. This novel excels as a study of their relationship, why it was successful and why it failed, as well as the toll it took on Shirley's mental, emotional, and physical well-being. The murder mystery element was not as successful and mostly added a bit of tension to the story, nothing more.
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Interesting fictionalized take on the domestic life of Shirley Jackson. Rose Nemser is a young wife and new mother who comes to live at the Hyman/Jackson household with her writer husband. Feeling out of her depth intellectually, Rose attaches herself to Jackson, who she see's as a mother-figure and overall role model. Over time, it becomes clear to Rose that no matter how close she may feel to the mercurial Jackson, this relationship is destined to be one-sided. However, there are glimpses where we see parallel's between Shirley and Rose - in their relationships with their professorial husbands, ambivalence for their domestic obligations, and uncanny intuition. Overall this is an entertaining read for fans of Shirley Jackson and anyone looking for a decent piece of historical literary fiction.
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This fictional biography takes an interesting POV. The first person narrator is quiet Rose, a young, pregnant woman who has come with her husband to live in Shirley Jackson’s large chaotic home. 
Rose immediately becomes obsessed with Shirley. Idolizing her and jealous of anyone who competes for Shirleys attention. Shirley loves Rose too, as long as Rose remains quiet and complaint. 
This is the kind of book that could hold up to several reads and could lend itself to so much discussion. 

Just a couple of quick note:

1. The title. “Shirley”. Not Shirley Jackson. “Shirley” implies the reader is being given an intimate relationship with the woman, the character, the writer. But like, Jackson’s own characters Rose is an unreliable narrator which leads to more questions. 
2. Is Rose really just a part of Shirley‘s own personality? The part that is vulnerable, motherly, weak, and obedient. Rather than the women the world saw who unapologetically wrote gripping tales of death and pain.
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Not an interesting book to me, I almost marked it as DNF. I think that even if I had read more of Shirley Jackson's books, this novel would have still failed to entertain me.

Thank you, Netgalley, for this arc.
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Always lovely to find a fresh and new perspective on a character we feel we know and love. I am a huge Shirley Jackson fan, and have read every nonfiction story about her I can get my hands on. This was refreshing as it captured her essence but had the liberating side effects of a fictional story. Really enjoyed it!
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