Book Review: Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson

LetMeTellYou

LET ME TELL YOU by SHIRLEY JACKSON

RATING: 4 STARS

Shirley Jackson is best known for her classic short story, The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House.  Let Me Tell You is a collection of Jackson’s unpublished short stories and essays on writing gathered by her family. Twenty-two short stories involve the sinister, secret underside of suburban life, which she experienced herself. Along with being a successful writer, she was also a housewife.

Many of her short stories were semi-auto biographical.  Shirley Jackson was an accomplished writer married to Stanley Edgar Hyman, a professor and book critic.”A Garland of Garlands” is about a woman complaining about her difficulty being married to an unappreciative book critic.  In other stories, we can feel her resentment of the housewife role in “Here I Am, Washing  Dishes Again”, “Still Life With Teapot and Students” and “Company For Dinner.” I especially enjoyed “Mrs. Spencer and The Oberons”, Root of Evil” and her personal essays at the end.

Let Me Tell You is an entertaining selection of her writing. If you’ve never read any of her novels, I’d suggest reading her novels first, which show her mastery of psychological horror. Highly recommended for those who enjoy psychological horror or Twilight Zone – like stories.

An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

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Review: From The Fifteenth District by Mavis Gallant

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The Fifteenth District by Mavis Gallant

Publication date: December 16, 2014

RATING: 4 STARS

From The Fifteenth District is a collection of short stories about European émigrés struggling to find their way in the world during pre and post WW II.  The stories have a somber feeling to them, with themes of relationships, aging, displacement and longing woven throughout it.  I preferred her short stories over the longer ones as they felt drawn out. Gallant’s stark writing style has a unique combination of being nonchalant and flippant.

As an example, here are some quotes From The Fifth District:

“His smile was like a sentence uttered too soon.”

“All that prevented him from weeping in the street was the thought that he had never seen a man do that.”

“I’ve discovered something else”, she said abruptly. “It is that sex and love have nothing in common. Only a coincidence, sometimes. You think the coincidence will go on and so you get married. I suppose that is what men are born knowing and women learn by accident.”

Gallant’s writing is sad, musical and  beautiful. If you read too much of her stories in one sitting, you may feel as if you’ve finished a Thanksgiving meal. I read the book in small bites –just enough to get a sweet taste of sorbet, but longing for more.

*** I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.***

Book Review: The Stone Mattress

The stone mattress

The Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

RATING: 5 STARS

Using themes of aging, revenge, morality and love, Atwood is at her best in her latest work, The Stone Mattress. Unlike other authors, Atwood writes dark, chilling stories about elderly characters not playing their typical role – such as narrators looking back, telling the stories of their glory days. Her characters are dropped into the dystopian action right in the middle of a retirement home. Since most of the stories involve authors, one can’t help but wonder if the stories are slightly autobiographical. Her beautiful and smart writing seeps straight to your bones, letting you digest and relish the precious moments of the stories.

The Stone Mattress and Torching The Daisies were my favorite stories. The Stone Mattress is a tale of revenge involving a black widow and a 1.9 billion years old stromatolites. If you enjoy dark, chilling, fantasy with a touch of gothic stories, you’ll enjoy this collection of short stories.

** I received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.**