August 09, 2006

Book Review: Life Among the Savages

Life Among the Savages
by Shirley Jackson

I read Mrs. Jackson's work discussed on a message board I lurk at occasionally. They were raving about how funny this and her other book, Raising Demons, are. So a quick trip to the library brought this treasure.

It is not a book about some scientist that communicates with a native tribe in Africa. It's a funny kind of autobiography about Mrs. Jackson's home life amongst her four children. It was written in the late 1940s, which is evidenced by Jackson's having a cigarette to calm her while in labor and her giving one child, age 5, brandy for a cold. Okay, so people probably still do that now but they never admit it for fear of being arrested for serving alcohol to a minor.

If you like watching some of the old family shows from the 50's you will definitely enjoy this book. It has Donna Reed written all over it. I loved the story about the son's classmate who was always getting in trouble at school for "being fresh" or saying bad words, only to find out it was the son who was actually doing the misbehaving. Or the story of the daughter who pretended she was a woman with 7 imaginary daughters that came with her everywhere and whose names changed from time to time. Even the Dragon Slayer(my teenager) read some of it and laughed aloud.

One complaint I have about it was that it only has 3 chapters. It's a 250 page book. That means the chapters averaged 83 pages each. I don't often get a big enough chunk of time to read 83 pages undisturbed. Stopping in the middle of a chapter seems so wrong. The neurotic in me likes to end at a chapter break. And there were plenty of chances for frequent breaks. I guess the author didn't feel the chapters could be broken up as easily as I did. Perhaps the chapter breaks were more significant than I'm realising. Well, if I ever write a book I will put frequent chapter breaks so my readers can refresh their tea, make potty trips and tend to children without breaking the flow of the story.

This is a minor problem that can be overlooked considering the pleasure I got from reading this book. I look forward to the continuing story in Raising Demons.

No comments: