It seems like I started reading Life Among the Savages a long time ago. I have probably finished 5 other books since I first started reading it. I am not entirely sure why I set it aside. I read Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle and loved it. And I have a copy of The Haunting of Hill House on my TBR. A memoir of Jackson’s young family in the early 1950s, Savages started out pretty strong. It was fun to read about the culture shock of moving from the cramped, expensive, city to rural Vermont. Big house, critters, learning how to drive, etc. Some of the stories about her children (the savages) were also pretty amusing but ultimately I found them a bit boring. Jackson’s writing isn’t boring, her recollections are quite witty, but ultimately, her kids just aren’t interesting enough to hold my complete attention. Especially when contrasted with Jackson’s gripping fiction.
Not surprisingly given my tastes, the parts I found most interesting were those that deal with the minutiae of everyday life. (I know, I know, boring stories about things, I find interesting. Boring stories about kids, not so much.) One such story includes a description of a suit for her young son costing something in the neighborhood of $45. This seemed liked an enormous amount of money for the time. When I consulted an on-line inflation calculator it indicated that $45 in 1950 would be about $397 today. Who among us is going to spend $397 for a suit for a child? And indeed Jackson did not pay the $45 for the suit, but just the fact that clothes cost that much relative to salaries is astounding. When I was telling John about this, he pointed out that the tiny closets in our 1937 house certainly supported the notion that clothes were not always purchased in the abundance like they are today. Of course that $45 suit in 1950 was no doubt made by an American who was paid an actual living wage rather than the measly sums given some poor 10-year old in a developing country.
But I digress. And the fact that I digress to such a degree indicates that I don’t have too much to say about this book. Some of you may find it worthwhile, but I am going to stick to Jackson’s fiction from now on.
(The book certainly has had an interesting variety of cover art. My copy is one of the less interesting ones. It is the second cover below–the Penguin.)