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Shirley: A Novel Kindle Edition

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Length: 274 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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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: Plume; Reprint edition (June 12, 2014)
  • Publication Date: 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
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #351,532 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By C. M. Reilly on June 21, 2014
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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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Nick Gazzolo on June 14, 2014
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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By she treads softly on June 14, 2014
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David Seaman VINE VOICE on October 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, let me say outright that I purchased this novel; my quotes are not from an advanced reader's copy, I received no compensation nor was I given an editor. Secondly, had Susan Scarf Merrell used fictitious names this novel would have recieved at least one more star. As a Jackson scholar, with a Phd and 52 years of experience, I feel compelled to be honest despite the deluge of hateful comments, sarcastic posts and nit-picking regarding my opinion that I anticipate any time I give a book less than five stars. (a rarity in my work: go ahead. Look.) And that is what a literary essay is: one person's opinion.

Susan Scarf Merrell has very good taste in literature, as she recognizes that Shirley Jackson is one of the finest American writers to have ever lived. Most people who buy this book will likely be attracted to it because of Shirley Jackson; it is those people who may well be the most disappointed. "Shirley" is a mystery novel that Ms Merrell has created based on the concept of a semester at home with Shirley Jackson and Stanley Edgar Hyman in North Bennington, Vermont where a young couple are living with the now legendary Hymans. Fred, a young professor under Stanley's tutelage and Rose, a young pregnant newlywed from a disturbed childhood hopes to becomes Shirley and Stanley's friends, Absolutely NO ONE called Mr. Hyman "Stan." Ever.

There are some unfortunate misses in the text. For example, there are a number of errors in grammar all of which stops a literate reader the same way that pausing a film or stopping a stage production in mid scene would do. Example:

Fred said, "You're tired. I'll bring you upstairs." Stanley paused...willing to wait until
After dinner." (p.
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