After thoroughly enjoying Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson, The Lottery and Other Stories came as a disappointment. This is a far less cohesive collection. While the stories in Dark Tales are sharp and well-honed, many of these have a meandering quality – a sameness and forgettable-ness that make them pale in comparison to the titular “Lottery”. I listened to these as an audiobook and frequently lost my place, my mind drifting just long enough to realise that I wasn’t fully engaged with whichever story was unfolding. I really am disappointed by this – I haven’t read a lot of Shirley Jackson, but I enjoyed Dark Tales so much that my hopes for these were very high. Trying to write this review less than two months after finishing (longer than I’d usually leave it to write a review, but – alas! – life), I scanned a list of story titles in an attempt to jog my memory, and almost nothing stirred.
My favourite among the collection was “The Daemon Lover”, in which a jilted bride searches frantically for her erstwhile lover. The growing sense of panic and dismay seeded throughout the story were reminiscent of the qualities I so enjoyed in Dark Tales. “Like Mother Used to Make” shares some of that superb unease, in a portrait of a man so mild-mannered he allows himself to be turned out of his own apartment by guests. There’s a similarity there to “Men with Their Big Shoes”, in which a meek new housewife is increasingly henpecked by her maid. And “Charles” is a gem too – the tale of a child who constructs an alter-ego to blame his school hijinks on. So not all of the stories were duds for me – but enough of them were for me to feel let down by the book as a whole. I’ll absolutely read more Shirley Jackson in future, but I wouldn’t recommend this collection.
[Read from 14-20 May 2017]