Saturday, February 22, 2014

Shirley, a Novel by Susan Scarf Merrell, Penguin Group

Fred Nemser and his wife, Rose, travel to North Bennington, Vermont to accept a position at Bennington College he was offered. They will be staying with Stanly Edgar Hyman and his wife, novelist Shirley Jackson. Upon arrival, Shirley says, “I’m a witch,” she said calmly. Now come inside come inside and let’s get you settled. Rose, is it?”

After a short time, Rose meets friends and students of the Hymans during regularly scheduled dinner parties. Rose begins to feel that she does not fit in because she has nothing to contribute to their conversations.

Amid town gossip, Rose finds that people believes Shirley is a witch and has something to do with the disappearance of a college student named Pamela. Since it was known that Stanley is a womanizer and Shirley is a jealous person, Rose suspects the same thing. Stanley and Shirley continually deny knowing the missing girl. In the meantime, Rose tries to build a relationship with Shirley but does not quite connect the way she wanted.

While Fred is working at the college, he has an affair with one of the students. Because they live with them, this adds to Rose’s stress of trying to fit in with the Hymans. Rose is trying to find her place in life and wants to know what happened to Pamela, along with the desire for Shirley to like her. 

Susan Scarf Merrell’s novel is written in a very descriptive manner without much dialogue. This was a hard read for me, as I prefer more dialogue between characters. The plot itself was very good but there was no depth. I would have liked to see more detail as to the whereabouts of the missing girl. As for the character of Shirley, it would have been nice to know whether she was indeed a witch. I recommend this book for those who prefer a descriptive style of writing with less dialogue. I received this book free from Penguin Group for this review.

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