it’s weird - oh how I’d been warned - but it’s not inaccessible or hard to digest. Natalie’s brain seems to work differently than most, but I’m not worried about her, except maybe when it comes to integrating with others and feeling comfortable about it. she sees the world from a variety of angles, almost like five senses aren’t enough for her, and she has a hard time keeping things simple; she thrives on deep thought, odd thought, and on each day as somehow coming up unsatisfactory. anyone who isn’t keen on his or her parents is in for some hard times; of course, Jackson’s plot has packed her off to school since about page 47, so now she is dealing with its alienating, unsatisfactory mechanics. petty or disappointing humans who nevertheless try and impart learning and brain-changing thoughts, higher centres of learning that haven’t managed to weed out all the narrow minds or toxic personalities. I hope Natalie can get through her younger years without other people doing too much damage to her interesting mind. or I’ve got her pegged wrong, and she will evolve into her own worst enemy. like I said, weird - also add challenging and mysterious - but not inaccessible.
I love something about it...but maybe the wrong something. and who was that detective you saw yourself with, Natalie??
50 Women Novelists in a Row: Book 10!
a couple of notes: since I’m in that small band of wet blankets who think The Haunting of Hill House isn’t all that, The Sundial is my favorite Shirley Jackson novel so far. let’s see if this can challenge...though my every instinct screams that this will be very different than The Sundial. doesn’t mean I won’t like it better, though...
...and, this will be my triumphant tenth novel in my 50 Women Novelists Marathon! I confess that the only novel by a man that is tempting me before I do all 50 is Earth Storm, by Mons Kallentoft...but an intended marathon is an intended marathon, and instead of rationalizing that the Kallentoft book features one of my favorite woman crime-solvers - the great Marlin Fors - I’m not going to deviate from the plan. now, the plan has always allowed for inserting a Nonfiction book, by woman or man, in the proceedings as a quick break from Fiction, at any time - and that may be happening after Hangsaman, with something called Bluespeople.
Hangsaman to me is probably one of the weirdest book I have ever read. Shirley Jackson's second novel released in 1951 centers the story of one Natalie Waite, a young teenager about to enroll into college and how along the way, the way she sees the world isn't the same as how others sees it. As life in college begins to take a different turn, she walks among the living in a dream like state of awareness not knowing what is real and what isn't. Thinking she is a fiction of a life she is living, her journey crumbles not knowing what hold's her sanity and the reality we all live in.
Based on the inspiration of an unsolved disappearance of Paula Jean Welden, an american college student that disappeared in 1946, Shirley Jackson wrote a world that truly is the weird and the strangest tale of between real and fiction. It is almost towards the sense that feels like madness but then again, as a reader it does makes me wonder what does it all mean. Although the reading is quite addictive that really takes me into the mind of Natalie Waite, there is some thing not normal about her, which in a way intriguing as I read. Was it a journey of a girl that so happens at the beginning, some thing happen that changes her to such confusion of identity or was it some thing more of an experience in her college life that lead spiraling down into a dark place where only Natalie sees it? One needs to read to know.
It is a hard book to rate but I felt a 3 out of 5 star is a much more appropriate rating for me as there is so much to explore here and yet, what was the motivation of it. Was it the strangeness or the understanding of a mind that can't grasp reality? For me, its some where I know that deserves a 3 for even though it is an intriguing read, I am still trying to figure out what the title means and wanting to understand this strange book I just finished today.
Look, just know that this book is weird. It switches from first to third person sometimes too. And then you honestly don't know what's real or not real so you feel very confused at times. And you also may end up not liking anyone (I know I didn't) but may come away feeling sorry for Natalie (I did) and then just confused again. Just go read Moonlight Reader's REVIEW of this book since it will make way more sense than my mutterings about things below.
First, Natalie and her family are messed up. You find that out quickly when you realize her terrible father refers to himself as God everyday when they are having breakfast. Her mother is scared of being alone with her father (I know I would be too) and also scared of doing anything wrong. Natalie's brother, Bud is barely there and Natalie is at times doing her best to please her father, but also trying to help her mother though she has barely concealed contempt for her at times.
When Natalie starts having a back and forth conversation with a police detective you don't know if Jackson is trying to allude to something that is going to happen, or it's all just in Natalie's imagination.
When Natalie finally leaves for college, things get worse for her. She realizes that she has no friends, the other girls call her "Spooky" and you start to realize that what you are being told is not the whole truth as a reader. I started to pick up on things here and there and realized that Natalie was not realizing what was not being said a lot of times. When Natalie weirdly befriends one of her professor's wives, things actually seem a bit better, but you realize she has fallen into the mess of another family that she is finding even heard to extricate herself from.
I think the writing at times got a bit muddled (sorry Ms. Jackson) I assume that is intentional, since I have read some of Jackson's other works, and it seems as if she chooses each word with care. Some sentences last an entire paragraph. At times it made my eyes glaze over. And you start to realize that maybe Jackson is doing that on purpose since you start to realize that maybe Natalie is speaking some of this out of the way stuff out loud.
The flow was a bit off for me though. Due to the writing I mentioned above, it just made things grind to a halt at times. Since this is such a short book it should not have taken me that long to finish it, but it did. I think that after Natalie goes away to school things drag a bit until she meet's her professor's wife.
The setting of a young girl's home and than college experience was interesting. I just don't remember being alone at college. My brother was an upperclassman so everyone called me Little (insert my brother's name here) so I didn't even have my own identity, I was just his little sister even after he graduated. I will say that everyone treated me differently though. He was a jock, and though I was in high school, I decided to just focus on my grades and not play any sports. When the school's basketball coach found out I could play and how good I was apparently she was not happy.
I digress. The ending of the book gets increasingly dark and leaves the reader with a feeling that something worse is coming Natalie's way due to what all the signs are pointing to regarding her behavior.
I wouldn't really call this a Gothic book or even a straight up horror story though Goodreads classifies it as such. It's just an interesting look at the different stages in a woman's life. We have the young girl (naive and at times defiant) the newlywed (scared of what she did by giving up her own identity) and the married woman (realizing that being married was not the ultimate prize that she thought it would be). So you do get the maiden, the mother, and the crone in this one giving a cautionary tale about what it means to be a woman.