Book Review: Private Demons - The Life of Shirley Jackson by Judy Oppenheimer A Premier Biography

Premier: adj. first in rank or importance

Full disclosure: I was fully prepared to rip this author to shreds, purely based on a number of reviews I had read prior to reading the book. But from sentence one, I was engrossed, enthralled and enraptured at the unfolding of our beloved Shirley's life, warts and all. It is crystal clear to me now that the reason why the second biography of Shirley Jackson, 2016's A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin has received all the glowing reviews is because they didn't read this one first.

When I posted Private Demons on my social media channels, most people were not even aware that another biography existed. This is one of many reasons why I am on such a quest to bring awareness to vintage books. There is so much out there that will float into the abyss without due recognition, and that makes me very sad. Even within my specific niche, people are pretty much reading the same books, which also makes me very sad. 

As a writer myself (albeit not a professionally published one), I fully understand the scope of supporting new books by new authors, heck we all gotta eat. It's just that I believe people would expand their worlds and enrich their lives far more if they included even a few books from the past. I'm not talking about the classics, those are a given. I'm talking about titles basically unknown to the common man because they have been exiled to charity shops, Goodwill bins and the like. Thus is why I do what I do. But I digress...

Private Demons answers all the questions, and this is where Judy Oppenheimer's book shines; she gives us a very well-rounded view of Shirley and all aspects of her life, her works, her children, and especially the volatile marriage she couldn't live without (mayhap until very near the end) leaving the reader satisfied that they may well relate to our underappreciated heroine even more than they did before reading it. I personally will be on a crusade to acquire any copies I can for the shop, to help bring Private Demons back into the circulation of awareness for the die hard Shirley Jackson fans.