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Shirley: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Susan Scarf Merrell
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $25.95
Kindle Price: $12.99
You Save: $12.96 (50%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

Two imposing literary figures are at the center of this captivating novel: the celebrated Shirley Jackson, best known for her short story “The Lottery,” and her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, a literary critic and professor at Bennington College. When a young graduate student and his pregnant wife—Fred and Rose Nemser—move into Shirley and Stanley’s home in the fall of 1964, they are quickly cast under the magnetic spell of their brilliant and proudly unconventional hosts.

While Fred becomes preoccupied with his teaching schedule, Rose forms an unlikely, turbulent friendship with the troubled and unpredictable Shirley. Fascinated by the Hymans’ volatile marriage and inexplicable drawn to the darkly enigmatic author, Rose nonetheless senses something amiss—something to do with nightly unanswered phone calls and inscrutable accounts of a long-missing female student. Chillingly atmospheric and evocative of Jackson’s own classic stories, Shirley is an elegant thriller with one of America’s greatest horror writers at its heart.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Newly married and pregnant at 19, Rose joins her husband, Fred, when he accepts a posting as a graduate teaching assistant at Bennington College, working for Stanley Hyman. The job comes with the so-called perk of living with Hyman and his wife, the notorious real-life author Shirley Jackson. Rose is smitten with Shirley, in thrall not only to her authorial prowess but also to the rumors that swirl around her like so many poisonous arrows regarding accusations of witchcraft and Shirley’s role in the disappearance of one of Stanley’s student paramours. Rose remains ever loyal, however, until Shirley accuses Rose of seducing Stanley in the wake of Rose’s discovery of Fred’s student dalliance. Jackson has always been one of the more intriguing and misunderstood writers of her generation, a woman writer at the cusp of feminism’s second wave who nevertheless was erroneously dismissed for writing mere “domestic fiction.” Merrell brings this complicated and compelling woman to life through the kind of taut and intimate thriller Jackson herself would have been proud to call her own. --Carol Haggas

Review

“Merrell brilliantly weaves events from Jackson’s life into a hypnotic story line that will please Jackson fans as well as anyone in search of a solidly written literary thriller….Its merit lies in its inventiveness even as it draws inspiration from Jackson’s own stories….[a] dazzling yet dark tale…One of the best things about Shirley is that you don’t have to be familiar with Jackson’s stories to enjoy it.”
—Carol Memmott, The Washington Post

“[A] totally explosive thriller starring the fascinating late author as the main character.”
—Entertainment Weekly

“Jackson has always been one of the more intriguing and misunderstood writers of her generation, a woman writer at the cusp of feminism’s second wave who nevertheless was erroneously dismissed for writing mere “domestic fiction.” Merrell brings this complicated and compelling woman to life through the kind of taut and intimate thriller Jackson herself would have been proud to call her own.”
—Booklist

“Brooding… A sidelong portrait of a category-defying writer dovetails surprisingly snugly with the drama of one young woman’s coming-of-age.”—Kirkus
 
“A compelling fictional tale.”—Library Journal

“[A] precisely accurate look at the sexual and intellectual failures that real love must allow for and survive, and a darkly fantastical meditation on magic, revenge, love, and reality….The brilliance of Jackson’s life and Merrell’s writing is that they convey [a] depth and beauty…In the end, Shirley is a love story, albeit an unexpected and uncomfortable one—perhaps the only kind that could ever be told by or about Shirley Jackson.”
—The Daily Beast

“To the great literature of obsession we can now add Susan Scarf Merrell’s brilliant and captivating Shirley, a novel as full of passion and intrigue as any traditional love story. The twist is that the obsessive in these pages is a quiet young academic wife and the object of her fascination is none other than gothic storyteller Shirley Jackson. A fantastically original book.”
—Ann Packer, author of Swim Back to Me and The Dive from Clausen’s Pier
 
“Susan Scarf Merrell writes about desire, female friendship, and obsession with a true storyteller’s sense of the human heart. Shirley Jackson and her husband Stanley Hyman, giants in the world of twentieth century letters, make for a brilliant intersection of vivid fiction and literary myth set in the vortex that is North Bennington, Vermont. Shirley is a love story that will keep you up all night.”
—Susan Cheever, author of e.e. cummings, a life

Product Details

  • File Size: 2097 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press (June 12, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00JJXV5EE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,106 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"I thought girls outgrow their passion for Shirley Jackson novels around the time they give up riding horses and start having sex," a professor casually said to me one day when I was 19. He was eating a bagel with cream cheese and some of the cream cheese had gotten stuck to his graying beard.

I was an English major and I'd wanted to write a paper about unreliable narrators in novels, narrators you can't quite trust. And I'd thought Shirley Jackson's novels "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" and "The Haunting of Hill House" would be perfect. It devastated me to see the contempt my professor had for Shirley Jackson.

What did I say back to my professor? Probably nothing. Probably I just scratched Shirley Jackson's name off my list of acceptable authors and profusely apologized for daring to speak Shirley Jackson's name in the same sentence as Nabokov's and James Joyce's.

The first time I'd come across Shirley Jackson's writing was in junior high when our class read "The Lottery." Usually, the stories we read in our literature book in 8th grade bored me. They were such NICE stories, suitable for NICE children. But there was nothing NICE about "The Lottery." The story hit me like a slap in the face and I looked around my classroom suspiciously, suddenly aware that inside each of us was something kind of....well, exciting and...WICKED.

Anyhow, if you were ever one of those girls who loved Shirley Jackson, or a BOY who loved Shirley Jackson, or simply someone looking for a good novel to read this summer, I highly recommend Susan Scarf Merrell's brilliant SHIRLEY A NOVEL.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Merrell takes us deep into Shirley and Stanley's world and that is a heady place to be. This book is a cocktail of fact and fiction. I did not know where one ended and the other began and while some may take issue with that to me it was half the fun. We know things will get messy at some point, but we don't know exactly when or how.

The mood of the novel is very much in the spirit of Shirley's writing. If you like Shirley Jackson, you will like this book. If you like "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," you will like this book. If you like Michael Cunningham's "The Hours," you will like this book.

Shirley and Stanley's world is dark and stormy and hard to resist.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Shirley by Susan Scarf Merrell is a recommended novel of suspense.

In Shirley, Susan Scarf Merrell has written a novel with two literary giants, novelist Shirley Jackson and her husband Stanley Edgar Hyman, as the main characters. It is 1964 and newlyweds Rose and Fred Nemser are moving to Vermont where Fred will be teaching alongside Hyman at Bennington College. The young couple is invited to live with Jackson and Hyman, which is exciting for both of them. Fred enjoys Hyman while Rose is entranced by Jackson and jealous of her friendship.

The entire story is narrated by Rose. As the Hymans drink to excess and pop pills, Rose observes their open marriage, she finds herself gratified at Jackson's insults as if they were a form of kindness. As the year progresses, a pregnant Rose sees another side to Jackson and questions her devotion to her as well as Hyman's influence on her husband. And what is the truth behind the coed from Bennington who went missing years ago. The locals view Jackson as a witch and are openly hostile toward her. She is fodder for gossip. Perhaps she had something to do with the missing young woman. Or perhaps it was Hyman.

This fictional account has the feel of a real biography with a mystery intertwined in the narrative. While the writing is superb and Merrell does an excellent job highlighting an atmospheric tension based on obsession, the actual plot lacks the focus needed to create any real overwhelming suspense. The focus is more refined when looking at other literary figures or alluding to Jackson's writing.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Blue Rider Press for review purposes.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impessive display of spooky love June 16, 2014
By Joseph
Format:Hardcover
I took this at first as a horror story, which is a genre I don't closely follow but do enjoy. The premise seemed to lend itself to it, I thought. And while it does move forward with uncertainty and danger, it surprised as real compelling literature, with all the nightmares and blemishes of ordinary life that give us reason to take pause in the first place. It takes the joys and heartache of interconnection and places them in a world that feels, at times, alien and at other times too close to ours. Where I expected dread and warm breath from a horror story, there were people instead. But there was no bait-and-switch here. More of a "holy hell, where else does this go?"

Shirley is a story of love, the scary kind of love. It's about how expectations influence actions and the sheer magnitude of those invisible forces that surround us. Read this book and re-consider the hearts around you. These are the depths of people, the thrill and the ache of opening oneself up to others. A remarkable piece of work with real resonance, this'll be mentioned in conversations about good books that came out this year. Fantastic.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind the ivy walls!
A truly original novel with a great deal of fine literary references and intrigue. Though I did not have the experience of studying writing and instead attended a teacher's college... Read more
Published 3 months ago by S. Berger
2.0 out of 5 stars Blurs the Lines of Fiction and Ethics
I'm completely torn as I write this review. As someone who loves to read and loves Shirley Jackson, I looked forward to receiving this book as a gift. Read more
Published 3 months ago by John Burklew
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read with a blended mix of facts concerning Shirley ...
Good read with a blended mix of facts concerning Shirley Jackson and the fictitious character. I was especially drawn to this book as when I was in college taking a humanities... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Leona20187
5.0 out of 5 stars I was too inexperienced to know good writing from bad but I knew it...
I first read Shirley Jackson when I was in middle school. The novel "We Have Always Lived in the Castle' to be exact. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Randee Mazurek
5.0 out of 5 stars A WINNER
Subtle, deep, psychological, great characters. You have to pay attention.
Published 4 months ago by J. Marquardt
1.0 out of 5 stars A poorly written Shirley bashing, at best...
This book description reeled me in, I will admit that. However, I found that the writer was more concerned with her use of flowery language than her storytelling. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good read. Didn't want to put it down
Published 5 months ago by Mackie Finnerty
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable...if you already happen to be a Jackson fan
If nothing else, you have to admire Susan Scarf Merrell's guts.

It takes a little something to base a novel on a year in the life of a writer whose work most people... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Jennifer Grey
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read for Admirers of Jackson's Work
I think the best possible compliment I could give this book is that it reads like a Shirley Jackson novel, and that is absolutely true. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Steph
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written and compelling story
I'd give Shirley six stars if it were possible. Susan Scarf Merrell is a gifted writer and a compelling storyteller. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Eric Cohen
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More About the Author

Susan Scarf Merrell's novel, Shirley--a psychological thriller set at Bennington College in the 1960s, narrated by a young woman who moves with her professor husband into the home of novelist Shirley Jackson and Jackson's husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, and who uncovers a chilling connection between the celebrated couple and the disappearance of a young co-ed on campus years before--is published by Blue Rider/Penguin. She is fiction editor of TSR: The Southampton Review, and an assistant professor in the MFA program in Creative Writing & Literature at Stony Brook University. Merrell is also the author of the novel A Member of the Family and the nonfiction book The Accidental Bond: How Sibling Connections Influence Adult Relationships. Her short stories and essays have been published in the literary reviews Tin House, The Southampton Review, The New Haven Review and the AWP Chronicle. She has also written on the subject of adoption for The Daily Beast, and on author Shirley Jackson's Vermont homes for Writershouses.com. Merrell's articles have appeared in Edible East End, Self, New Woman, Parents, Parenting, Child, Psychology Today and elsewhere. A graduate of Cornell University's College of Arts and Sciences, Merrell holds an MFA from The Bennington Writing Seminars.

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