We’re teaming up with our sister websites One Book Lane and W&N ahead of International Women’s Day to celebrate our literary heroines for #WonderWomen16! Today we are kicking things off with a guest post from the incredible Charlaine Harris! Join us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to tell us about your heroines for #WonderWomen16.
The late great Shirley Jackson has always been my hero.
I can’t remember if I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle or The Haunting of Hill House first, but I have reread both many times. Haunting is the most frightening book of all time. No matter how many times I follow Eleanor’s mental deterioration in Hill House, it terrifies me each time.
Castle is brilliantly original and eerie. Mary Katherine and her older sister Constance, their Uncle Julian, and the interloper Cousin Charles, come to a surprising climax in the Blackwood house, years after most of the Blackwood family has been murdered. Mary Katherine’s procedures of repetition and personal magic to protect her home are fascinating. And her determination to protect her life with Constance produces grim results.
These two books would be enough to make me her fan for life.
But there’s more.
Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery,” caused an international sensation and is still taught in many American schools. Since I find short stories especially difficult, I am in awe of her expertise. It seems effortless, though anyone who’s tried to write a short story will tell you it’s anything but easy. “The Lottery” is the story that gets the most attention, but many other short works of Jackson’s are nothing short of amazing. (“The Daemon Lover” is almost perfect.) You could teach a class in writing short stories using Jackson’s work alone.
But there’s even more! Shirley Jackson could write humor, too. “Life Among the Savages” and “Raising Demons” are about her children and her home life, and they’re delightful.
I was sad to learn from biographies that Jackson’s home life was often far from idyllic, and that she had many physical and mental problems. Though her life may not have been a model of happiness or balance, she left an indelible legacy.
– Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris latest novel, Day Shift will be out in paperback on the 31st March.