Ruth Franklin’s sympathetic and masterful biography both uncovers Jackson’s secret and haunting life and repositions her as a major artist ... the genius of Shirley Jackson [is] revived and revealed in this fine biography.
...[a] magisterial biography ... Franklin ably captures the intoxicating and brainy energy of the early years of their relationship ... Thanks to the participation of all of the children, Franklin brings to vivid life the chaotic and lively Jackson-Hyman household ... Rare is the author biography that so thoroughly explores and illuminates the subject’s writing itself. Franklin offers inspired discussion of every novel, both memoirs, and many of the major stories.
...[a] masterful biography ... Franklin’s treatment of this bottled up rage and its results is intuitive and deft ... Franklin herself is a skilled builder of tension, tightening the string that connects Jackson to the world until we feel it about to snap ... As a literary critic, Franklin serves as an insightful guide to Jackson’s writings, as well as the evolution of her work over time, draft to draft and book to book ... Franklin’s portrait of this master is taut, insightful, and thrilling.
For any fanatic reader of Shirley Jackson, A Rather Haunted Life might give you vertigo. It is a biography in which the writer’s understanding of her subject feels, at times, eerily intuitive ... When reading Franklin’s masterful account of Jackson’s life, one senses how profoundly Jackson’s fiction draws from personal experience ... Franklin’s book reminds us that whether something actually happened or not is not necessarily what differentiates fiction from non-fiction.
To truly reclaim a legacy, it generally helps to have a big, penetrating biography, one that takes into consideration everything that’s come before and pushes forward a new and improved interpretation. Ruth Franklin’s excellent Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life is all that and more.
...with this welcome new biography Franklin makes a thoughtful and persuasive case for Jackson as a serious and accomplished literary artist ... The value of Franklin’s book is its thoroughness and the way she traces Jackson’s evolution as an artist, sensibly pointing out what’s autobiographical and what isn’t.
... a fresh effort to frame her as an artist with extraordinary insight into the lives, the concerns, and—above all—the fears of women ... Gender is not the only prejudice that has kept us from acknowledging the brilliance of Shirley Jackson, but Franklin’s biography is a giant step toward the truth.
Franklin’s ambition in this sympathetic and fair-minded biography is to elevate Jackson to the status of a major 20th-century writer, rather than the minor author of 'The Lottery' and a handful of enjoyably eerie novels ... Franklin tends to flatly blame Geraldine for her daughter’s anxieties in ways that can be too simplistic; the book’s clear feminist sympathies do not seem to expand beyond Jackson to her mother, who was presumably a product of her own upbringing.
Ruth Franklin painstakingly examines Jackson’s extensive correspondence, diaries and interviews, as well as drafts of her work. This biography is no critical reassessment. It strongly affirms the American author’s powerful collection of stories, novels and memoirs ... [a] magisterial and compulsively readable biography.
...a well-written, well-considered and enjoyable opportunity for those of us who recall the pleasures of reading Jackson to go out and enjoy her all over again; it also helps make up for the poor scholarly attention her novels and stories have received since her death.
...brilliant and heartbreaking ... [a] remarkable and moving biography ... Franklin has shown the interplay between the life, the work, and the times with real skill and insight, making this fine book a real contribution not only to biography, but to mid-20th-century women's history.
I said that I enjoyed this book for all the wrong reasons, and what I mean is that I found in it a character far more compelling than its title’s subject. Jackson’s husband was the literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, and he emerges as a dazzlingly charismatic blend of boor and genius ... [Franklin] is very good clearing up the line between straight memoir and fiction, though what is autobiographical about Jackson’s work is more often feeling than fact ... Much of Jackson’s writing is a weird, rich brew, and Franklin captures its savor. I may have been captivated by Stanley Hyman’s personality, but after this biography, I will go back and read Jackson herself.
...a biography rich in new details, stories, and analysis. Franklin expands our understanding of how the evils of the times in which Jackson lived - racism, anti-Semitism, war, fear of nuclear annihilation, McCarthyism - affected Jackson's writing and psyche ... the freshest contribution here is her interpretation of Jackson through the lens of the pre-feminist era in which she lived.