Life Among the Savages

ImageThe last book I read, The Dinner by Herman Koch, while amazing, was rather disturbing, and wanted to be followed with something more light-hearted. Who knew that the author of The Lottery and The Haunting of the Hill House had two memoirs that focused on her home life? Well probably many, but I was not one of this population until I found these books at a used book store a few years ago.

The book starts with the narrator (who I assume is Shirley Jackson), her husband, and her two children relocating from New York City to an ancient house in a small New England town. Hijinks ensue:

… perhaps, with some kind of feline optimism I cannot share, she believed that the chipmunk episode had been a freak, the sort of thing that might happen to any man confronting an oscillant chipmunk.
p 38

It’s hilarious- reading the phrase “oscillant chipmunk” made my day. (Does anyone else keep track of the funniest thing they’ve heard during the day? This was mine.) It is mostly a sweet description of their life in a bucolic New England town. Over time, the house fills with more children and pets. There is no real plot driving much of the book, just loosely joined stories describing their life throughout the years during which the youngest two children were born. I like to think of the book as the 1950’s version of today’s Mommy-blogs.

The house described in Life Among the Savages is apparently still standing, and closely matches the description in the early pages of the book:

The classical revival was upon the country then, and Doctor Ogilvie modeled his house after, persumably, a minor Greek temple; he set up the four massive white pillars across the front, threw wings out to both sides and then, with true New England economy, left the house only one room deep behind its impressive facade.  p16

Sounds like a good destination for a road trip!

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