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Fiction. Suspense. Thriller. Historical Fiction. HTML:

A fictional young couple spends a year at Bennington in 1964 with novelist Shirley Jackson and her husband in this captivating psychological thriller.

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    The Crime Writer de Jill Dawson (sturlington)
    sturlington: One book has Shirley Jackson as a character, the other has Patricia Highsmith.
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I have read back-to-back two novels about recently alive writers that imply those writers may have been murderers, and so now I'm going to compare them. Susan Scarf Merrell, the author of Shirley, about Shirley Jackson, and Jill Dawson, the author of The Crime Writer, about Patricia Highsmith, both show a thorough knowledge and appreciation of their subjects and seem mainly to want to write a book in the style of their favorite authors. I have to wonder then why they don't just write their own novels instead of delving into a real person's life. When there are still people alive who remember both Jackson and Highsmith, it seems a little icky, especially imagining these women committing murder out of love. It also reinforces a bit too much the fallacy of confusing a writer with what she writes about. These novels were clever conceits but ultimately just curiosities that I'll probably never pick up again, as they stray rather too far into fan-fiction territory. Their subjects' novels, though, remain eminently readable and rereadable. ( )
1 vota sturlington | Apr 8, 2019 |
I read this, because I won it through the summer reading program at my local library. I'm glad to say that I really enjoyed it. It's written beautifully and remains captivating throughout. I'm not currently familiar with the work of Shirley Jackson, but reading this definitely makes me want to become familiar with it. I look forward to reading more of Merrell's work as well. ( )
  SEliz | Jul 1, 2017 |
I read this, because I won it through the summer reading program at my local library. I'm glad to say that I really enjoyed it. It's written beautifully and remains captivating throughout. I'm not currently familiar with the work of Shirley Jackson, but reading this definitely makes me want to become familiar with it. I look forward to reading more of Merrell's work as well. ( )
  SEliz | Jul 1, 2017 |
Imagine Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? through the eyes of Honey. Shirley Jackson presides vividly in this fiction, but it is young Rose's unquenchable need and jealousy that drives the tale. Well written visit to Bennington in the last year of Jackson's life ponders what, if anything, satisfies the hunger to been "seen" -- marriage, success, fame, children, talent, youth, or beauty -- but like the mystery of Paula Weldon provides no answers. Some object to the fictional intrusion into Jackson's life while others enjoy the biographical credibility -- your mileage may vary but it is definitely worth a drive. ( )
  Lemeritus | May 10, 2017 |
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.

( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
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No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against it hills holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm. and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone. -The Haunting of Hill House
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She was happiest, I thought, when she could let words patter down around her, landing and glancing off her upturned face. If he could make her laugh, keep her entertained, Stanley would push himself to greater effort, saliva glistening on his tongue and lips, red-faced. And when the guffaws died, he was always the one to give that last wistful chuckle, as if he already missed how happy he’d been. “Scotch, Shirley! It wad frae mony a blunder free us, Shoil, if only we had more of it!” And he would pour into whichever glass he could reach, liquor splashing on the tablecloth. And then he’d sigh, longing for more afterglow before raising the refilled glass to his lips.
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Fiction. Suspense. Thriller. Historical Fiction. HTML:

A fictional young couple spends a year at Bennington in 1964 with novelist Shirley Jackson and her husband in this captivating psychological thriller.

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