Top critical review
Reviewed in the United States on September 22, 2020
I did not like this book. I have read two novels by Shirley Jackson, and I was first introduced to her when I read her iconic short story that started her rise to fame. I’ve loved my previous delving into Shirley Jackson. But Hangasman left me cold. I suppose I was expecting some sort of horror or supernatural story. Instead I got what I considered a very tedious story indeed. I get the book is a coming of age story—the tale of seventeen year old Natalie Waite in her first year in college. I get that the book is a satire of the academic world. I thought the characters were well-wrought. What I didn’t get was why the plot in a novel barely two hundred pages long seemed to plod along. More narrative than dialogue, I felt like I was wading through literary mud. Jackson fills her novel with excellent metaphors and other descriptive devises, and I really enjoyed Natalie’s flights of fantasy in the first section of the book. But as Natalie gets farther into her college life, meeting some rather vile young women, I wanted some of those aforementioned fantasies to come true. But apparently, if I read it right, Jackson was more interested in showing Natalie’s maturation than her adolescent imaginings. In any other novel, I would have found that admirable, but I was expecting Jackson to commit mayhem or revenge or something equally heinous. So perhaps I’m a victim of my own imaginings. And maybe I’m not sophisticated enough to understand Jackson’s writing in this one. After all, my favorite author is Henry James, and he didn’t write intensely slow-paced cerebral social commentary. Right?