Synopses & Reviews
Two imposing literary figures are at the center of this captivating novel: the celebrated Shirley Jackson, best known for her short story The Lottery,” and her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, a literary critic and professor at Bennington College. When a young graduate student and his pregnant wifeFred and Rose Nemsermove into Shirley and Stanleys home in the fall of 1964, they are quickly cast under the magnetic spell of their brilliant and proudly unconventional hosts.
While Fred becomes preoccupied with his teaching schedule, Rose forms an unlikely, turbulent friendship with the troubled and unpredictable Shirley. Fascinated by the Hymans volatile marriage and inexplicable drawn to the darkly enigmatic author, Rose nonetheless senses something amisssomething to do with nightly unanswered phone calls and inscrutable accounts of a long-missing female student. Chillingly atmospheric and evocative of Jacksons own classic stories, Shirley is an elegant thriller with one of Americas greatest horror writers at its heart.
“Albee can…be placed high among the important dramatists of the contemporary world theatre.”—New York Post “An irreplaceable experience…A crucial event in the birth of contemporary American theatre.”—Village Voice
“Merrell brilliantly weaves events from Jacksons 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 Jacksons own stories….[a] dazzling yet dark tale…One of the best things about Shirley
is that you dont have to be familiar with Jacksons stories to enjoy it.”
—Carol Memmott, The Washington Post
“[A] totally explosive thriller starring the fascinating late author as the main character.”
“Jackson has always been one of the more intriguing and misunderstood writers of her generation, a woman writer at the cusp of feminisms 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.”
“Brooding… A sidelong portrait of a category-defying writer dovetails surprisingly snugly with the drama of one young womans 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 Jacksons life and Merrells 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 Merrells 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 Clausens Pier
“Susan Scarf Merrell writes about desire, female friendship, and obsession with a true storytellers 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
“[A] wonder. One of the gripping things about the book is how set in place it is in Bennington, Vermont, a town where the townies and the college have long gazed at each other skeptically—in Jacksons work much of the roiling beneath the surface is because of this dynamic—and it is present in Shirley too, as Merrell hauntingly weaves in the disappearance of a missing young student named Paula Weldon to the novel.”
—A.N. Devers, Slate.com
“In Shirley, Merrell extrapolates fact and expertly blends in fiction…Merrells book works beautifully as homage, and as an original, inventive novel in its own right.”
“Twelve times a week,” answered Uta Hagen, when asked how often she’d like to play Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Like her, audiences and critics alike could not get enough of Edward Albee’s masterful play. A dark comedy, it portrays husband and wife George and Martha in a searing night of dangerous fun and games. By the evening’s end, a stunning, almost unbearable revelation provides a climax that has shocked audiences for years. With the play’s razor-sharp dialogue and the stripping away of social pretense, Newsweek rightly foresaw Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as “a brilliantly original work of art—an excoriating theatrical experience, surging with shocks of recognition and dramatic fire [that] will be igniting Broadway for some time to come.”
About the Author
Edward Albee, the American dramatist, was born in 1928. He has written and directed some of the best plays in contemporary American theatre and three of his plays: A Delicate Balance, Seascape and Three Tall Women have received Pulitzer Prizes. His most famous play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. His other plays include The Zoo Story, The Death of Bessie Smith, The Sandbox, The American Dream, Tiny Alice, All Over, Listening, The Lady from Dubuque, The Man Who Had Three Arms, Finding the Sun, Fragments, Marriage Play and The Lorca Play.