I want to introduce you to the work of Shirley Jackson, whose novels and short stories transformed my life as both a reader and writer.

The story you have before you, The Lottery, is so much an icon of American 20th century fiction, that one could argue this masterpiece from 1948 has embedded itself directly into our collective unconscious.

I remember first coming upon this story as a young girl and being terrified by it and at the same time in awe of how normal it seemed – at first. The Lottery starts off innocently enough, 

"The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green."

From this seemingly wholesome beginning the reader descends into what is simultaneously a fascinating exploration of the banality of everyday life and the inexorable strange darkness which lurks just underneath, together forming the true psychopathology of every day life. Shirley Jackson brilliantly illuminates both who we want to be seen as and who we really are – it’s that sharpness of vision that makes her so unnerving.

Shirley Jackson’s writing reminds me of English writers such as Iris Murdoch and Angela Carter who manage to probe politics, the psyche and contemporary culture brilliantly, all the while escaping common preconceptions of both gender and genre.

Jackson’s novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, is a magical, almost gothic family romance, populated by characters reminiscent of other American girl heroines namely, Scout Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and Frankie Adams in Carson McCullers' The Member of The Wedding.

Each of these stories features a singularly strong girl – a kind of a tomboy – on the cusp of adulthood struggling with her estrangement from the rest of the world, painfully self-conscious and simultaneously and unrepentantly herself.

Jackson is not an easy writer, her work can be discomfiting but she is also funny, smart and remains all these years later still ahead of the rest of us. When thinking of Jackson’s style and her great gifts for creating characters and rich stories – I feel as though the literary world has spun in a circle and we’re finding ourselves again in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when there was a rise in science fiction, horror and dystopian narrative much like we’re seeing today.

It is now the early part of the 21st century and we’re celebrating our love of the story across multiple platforms in books, e-books, video games and movies. It is in this world that I wish to introduce you to the work of one of the writers who continues to transform the meaning of reading and writing for me – Shirley Jackson.

- A.M. Homes

  • The Lottery and Other Stories

    Penguin Modern Classics

  • 'Shirley Jackson's stories are among the most terrifying ever written' Donna Tartt

    This is the definitive collection of Shirley Jackson's short stories, including 'The Lottery' - one of the most terrifying and iconic stories of the twentieth century, and an influence on writers such as Neil Gaiman and Stephen King.

    In these stories an excellent host finds himself turned out of home by his own guests; a woman spends her wedding day frantically searching for her husband-to-be; and in Shirley Jackson's best-known story, a small farming village comes together for a terrible annual ritual. The creeping unease of lives squandered and the bloody glee of lives lost is chillingly captured in these tales of wasted potential and casual cruelty by a master of the short story.

    Shirley Jackson's chilling tales have the power to unsettle and terrify unlike any other. She was born in California in 1916. When her short story The Lottery was first published in The New Yorker in 1948, readers were so horrified they sent her hate mail; it has since become one of the greatest American stories of all time. Her first novel, The Road Through the Wall, was published in the same year and was followed by five more: Hangsaman, The Bird's Nest, The Sundial, The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, widely seen as her masterpiece. Shirley Jackson died in her sleep at the age of 48.

    'An amazing writer ... if you haven't read any of her short stories ... you have missed out on something marvellous' Neil Gaiman

    'Her stories are stunning, timeless - as relevant and terrifying now as when they were first published ... 'The Lottery' is so much an icon in the history of the American short story that one could argue it has moved from the canon of American twentieth-century fiction directly into the American psyche, our collective unconscious' A. M. Homes

  • Buy the book
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle

    Penguin Modern Classics

  • 'Her greatest book ... at once whimsical and harrowing, a miniaturist's charmingly detailed fantasy sketched inside a mausoleum ... the deeper we sink, the deeper we want to go' Donna Tartt

    Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the world isn't leaving the Blackwoods alone. And when Cousin Charles arrives, armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe, Merricat must do everything in her power to protect the remaining family.

    With an afterword by Joyce Carol Oates

    'The world of Shirley Jackson is eerie and unforgettable ... She is a true master' A. M. Homes

    'A masterpiece of Gothic suspense' Joyce Carol Oates

    'If you haven't read We Have Always Lived in the Castle ... you have missed out on something marvellous' Neil Gaiman

  • Buy the book

Read more

We use cookies on this site to enable certain parts of the site to function and to collect information about your use of the site so that we can improve our visitors’ experience.

For more on our cookies and changing your settings click here

Strictly Necessary


Preferences & Features

Targeting / Advertising