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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If tamed, LOL so high it could replace internal combustion..
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"Our house is old, noisy and full. When we moved into it we had two children and about five thousand books; when we finally overflow and move out again we will have perhaps twenty children and easily half a million books . . ."
This is the beginning of the curiously powerful--and stealth-assault funny--LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES (1952), memoirs of a Mommy, a...
Published on May 30, 2004 by Allen Smalling

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Charming
The book was pretty good. A little boring and mundane at times- but isn't that real life?! I could relate to many of her feelings and stories about motherhood.
Published 12 months ago by Brittany M. Vervalin


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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If tamed, LOL so high it could replace internal combustion.., May 30, 2004
This review is from: Life Among the Savages (Paperback)
.
"Our house is old, noisy and full. When we moved into it we had two children and about five thousand books; when we finally overflow and move out again we will have perhaps twenty children and easily half a million books . . ."
This is the beginning of the curiously powerful--and stealth-assault funny--LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES (1952), memoirs of a Mommy, a Daddy, and a powerhouse-ful of children who give up post-World War II's overcrowded Manhattan housing market for roomier digs in a remote Vermont town. These are certainly life-with-kids family memoirs of the late 1940s and early 1950s, but to leave it at that would miss the point--like saying that Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery" is an anthropological study of a ritualistic New England town, or that THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN is a treatise on rafting the Mississippi River before the Civil War.
The author of LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES is, in fact, Shirley Jackson, and this is the first half of her two comic novels about life with small children. (The latter half being the later, and unfortunately more difficult to find RAISING DEMONS, published in 1957.) I'm not revealing too much to pass on that the hick town just happens to be Bennington, Vermont, the one with the all-female college; and that the harried Papa taught there. And when Mommy climbed into bed late at night "with a mystery" there's a good chance she was working on one of her own stories and a portable typewriter, a pack of cigarettes and a snifter of brandy climbed into bed with her.
In LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES, even the most please-don't-eat-the-daisies events usually hide a shiv or a shiver somewhere amidst the sitcom. When the financially strapped family scrapes up enough cash for some day help, they interview and hire an escaped felon; later they tangle with a motorcycle mama, the ultimate Effie Klinker of negative IQ, and an over-the-top fundamentalist who frosted her cookies with "Repent, Sinner." Not to mention: "From the girls' room, small voices rose in song, and I listened happily, thinking how pleasant it was," reminisces la Jackson. "[Just later] I was out of bed in one leap and racing down the hall. 'Baby ate a spider, Baby ate a spider,' was what they were singing."
Maybe it's just the mixed blessings of heredity--and all those thousands of books--that the marriage of a college professor and a celebrated author would produce a growing family of kids so bright, inquisitive, creative, and, um, let's call it individualistic. "I frequently call [daughter Jannie] Anne and her father very often calls her Jean. Her brother calls her Honey, Sis, and Dopey, Sally calls her Nannnie, and she calls herself, variously, Jean, Jane, Anne, Linda, Barbara, Estelle, Josephine, Geraldine, Sarah, Sally, Laura, Margaret, Marilyn, Susan, and--imposingly--Mrs. Ellenoy. The second Mrs. Ellenoy. . . [M]y husband . . . is addressed in all variants of father from Pappy to Da, even--being a man not easily thrown off balance--Mr. Ellenoy." Son Laurie was so incensed by his temporary amnesia following his bicycle's crash with a car that he made the ambulance driver run HOME with the lights and siren on, "an extremely proud Jannie sitting beside him and traffic separating on either side."
Was life fair to Shirley Jackson? Well, she did produce (and by this book's end) four radiant children, two boys and two girls, all spaced an even three years apart. And she hung her laundry in the basement to dry, just like her neighbors told her to, after the backyard clothes line had flung it indignantly to the ground several times. But the nurses at the hospital were SO cross at her for yelling when she was in deep labor with Sally. And she got blacklisted by the PTA when Jannie said there was a woman at the door who wanted a dollar and Shirley, upstairs painting, assumed it was just another of Jannie's invisible friends . . .
Sadly, Shirley Jackson, person and author, later on became too dependent on chocolate, liquor, cigs and even amphetamines and did not live to see her fiftieth birthday. But while she was alive she gave us a treasury of suspense and horror fiction. Equally worth celebrating, I think, are LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES and RAISING DEMONS. Funny as Hell, and occasionally funny like Hell. My lit-chat group ran into LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES two years ago and despite initial misgivings based on its genre, unanimously loved it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, October 24, 1998
This review is from: Life Among the Savages (Paperback)
I generally hate domestic plots or cutesy toddlers but Shirley Jackson, with her wry sense of humor, helped me to really like this book. Sure, it is outdated but many of the absurd situations and attitudes still apply and it gives you a good middle class view of that period. Recommended!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious and refreshing, October 20, 2000
This review is from: Life Among the Savages (Paperback)
Shirley Jackson's wicked humour (don't miss the story of "Charles," for example) kept me laughing, and it was especially refreshing to step into a (let's face it, far more realistic) world where children could have a score of imaginary playmates (the family of Mrs Ellenoy), a son could be a bit of a discipline problem, the baby could eat a spider ... and no one ran to the self-help aisle or shrink just because kids were kids.
I had assumed that this was a biographical work, with the adventures just a bit exagerrated, until I read Shirley's (excellent) biography "Private Demons." Somehow, the stories were not as funny when I came to know that some of them were fiction, merely based on the children's traits.
This tale will never bore, and will give anyone a good dose of laughter. Perhaps those who now have children of the age which Shirley's were then will relax a bit realising that raising children was never a joy ride - but there is no need, today, to make it more difficult than it has to be.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A funny look at family life in the 40's. Still a great read!, September 16, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Life Among the Savages (Paperback)
This book entertained me as a kid and as an adult. I'll be sharing it with my kids. The book focuses on the life of a family growing up in the 40's. It is written by the great writer, Shirley Jackson. The comedy rivals Erma Bombeck's and the stories are funny, heartwarming and clever.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not scary, just funny, May 19, 1998
This review is from: Life Among the Savages (Paperback)
At one time, Shirley Jackson was both the scariest and the funniest writer in America. This book may come as a surprise to fans of "The Lottery", but don't neglect it on that account; it's still vintage Jackson, complete with a rambling old house (this time not haunted). This is hands down the funniest book about raising children ever written; somehow it manages to treat children as surreal and other (the savages of the title) without ever being condescending. The sequal, _Raising Demons_, isn't quite as good, but is still well worth the read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious!, April 3, 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Life Among the Savages (Paperback)
Shirley Jackson NAILS the atmoshpere of family life... the strange quirks of children that are accepted as normal by parents who are both good natured and over whelmed by the unending demands of parenthood and the mysterious events that happen in every family --- like where did the pink blanket go?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pox on everyday life!, November 23, 2010
This review is from: Life Among the Savages (Paperback)
Ms. Jackson's domestic fiction is unfairly lumped into the category of housewife humor dominated by Bombeck, Viorst, Kerr and company. While these scribes should be awarded fair due, their prose generates from the perspective of "normal woman" experiencing "everyday life" in mid 20th century America. Life Among the Savages and its sequel are the wry observances of an extremely rare mind whose life is anything but mundane.

Who else is asked to consider moving to a Vermont barn (Those stalls could be converted to bedrooms, suggests a Realtor) or a dwelling of petrified doughnuts when the NYC lease unexpectedly expires? Who else creates the criteria for an Olympic Event when faced with a live bat and a husband's air rifle? No one but Shirley quotes Shakespeare when facing a delivery room or charts her labor's progress by the newspaper her husband is (currently) hiding behind. No one gives her children the creative freedom to assume alternate identities while simultaneously herding them (with paraphernalia) through department store shopping. No one else is Shirley.

Life may be a little off kilter where a woman prefers to rob her children instead of pushing her furnace's power button and a family's restless night (my favorite) results in the baby possessing brandy, the dog asleep on the pillow and a quilt that vanished in perpetuity but it is not routine and neither is this book. Miss Jackson's work, as a whole, has resisted the categorization of literary critics. This book deserves no less. Enjoy the wry, detached tone of the narrator especially when a faint note of hysteria is detected in the narrative. Realize you have incorporated the sayings of her children into your family lexicon and give her the proper credit. But never label her domestic work as anything less than another branch of prose mastered by a gifted writer. If you do, I won't be responsible for the consequences.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of my all-time favorites, April 23, 2005
This review is from: Life Among the Savages (Paperback)
I grew up reading and rereading this book, as did all the five children in my family. It's one of the very funniest books I know on the subject of families and their foibles. Shirley Jackson is so well known for her more macabre and adult writing that people are usually skeptical when I recommend this for its outstandingly intelligent humor. Once you read this you must also read Raising Demons, which is the sequel, and every bit as good, although much harder to find.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING!, July 8, 2002
This review is from: Life Among the Savages (Paperback)
I have read many of Shirley Jackson's mystery novels and loved all of them!But, when my mom suggested that i read this book and said that it was funny, i thought she was being sarcastic, but i laughed from the time i opened the book until i read the last page.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Delightful read for anyone, January 2, 2000
By 
Betsie R. Czeschin (Kansas City, MO USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Life Among the Savages (Paperback)
The premise of the book sounded humourous, and the book proved even more so. At many times it was laugh-out-loud funny. The Great Grippe Mystery is hysterical. It's refreshing to read of life where neither adult could drive a car and Mom must borrow from the child's piggy bank for the $1 fee charged by the furnace man to start the furnace, all the while knowing this woman wrote "The Lottery"
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Life Among the Savages
Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson (Paperback - October 1, 1997)
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