In such unforgettable works as The Haunting of Hill House
and We Have Always Lived in the Castle
, Shirley Jackson took the American gothic tradition of Poe, Hawthorne, and Lovecraft and brought it down to earth, revealing that broad daylight held more subtle but no less chilling horrors. She was a master, as Dorothy Parker put it, of “beautifully written, quiet, cumulative shudders,” exploring the uncanny recesses concealed within the prosperous, conformist world of the postwar 1940s and 50s—and within our own unacknowledged selves.
Here, for the first time in a single volume, Jackson’s award-winning biographer Ruth Franklin gathers the four hypnotic novels with which she began her irreplaceable, all-too-brief career. Jackson’s haunting debut, The Road Through the Wall (1948), explores the secret longings, petty hatreds, and ultimate terrors that lurk behind the manicured lawns and picture-perfect domestic facades of a California suburb. In Hangsaman (1951)––inspired in part by Jackson’s own troubled years at the University of Rochester––precocious Natalie Waite, newly arrived on campus, grows increasingly dependent on a friend who may or may not be imaginary. The Bird’s Nest (1954) pits four unforgettable characters against each other in a battle for control: the shy, migraine-prone young office worker Elizabeth versus Elizabeth’s other multiple personalities. In The Sundial (1958), the eccentric Halloran clan, gathered at the family manse for a funeral, becomes convinced that the world is about to end and that only those who remain within the house will be saved. In what is perhaps her most unsettling novel, Jackson relates their crazed, violent preparations for the afterlife.
Ruth Franklin, editor, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for her biography Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (2016). A book critic and frequent contributor to The New Yorker, Harper’s, and other publications, she is also the author of A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction (2011).
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