365 Days of Women Writers

Women writers only – no boys allowed

Day 44: The Summer People by Shirley Jackson

with 8 comments

This is a mundane story about a couple who decide to stay at their summer home after labor day and undergo a series of inconveniences: the kerosene man didn’t order enough kerosene to supply them with any for the next month, the grocery store stops delivering after labor day, their milk and eggs guy has gone out of town, their car breaks down…. And throughout, the locals all express shock that the couple would want to stay.

You might be thinking that this is barely worth being a story at all from my summary. What makes it stand out is that Jackson has made this rather pedestrian narrative into something that is very, very creepy. There is an underlying dread that is so skilfully done that it’s hard to even say if it’s actually there until she makes it explicit that the couple feels it too. But even then she never picks a side; you never know if there’s any real cause, if the unlucky couple will go home after a cold and hungry night or if something more sinister is waiting for them because they dared to stay beyond their welcome.

About these ads

Written by Chance

October 31, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Thought this was a boring little story until the last page and WOW… creepy. I wish Shirley had written a little more so you knew what happened. I guess it’s scarier to just imagine…

    Kathy

    Kathy K.

    November 3, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    • It was stupid and too long. Wasn’t worth the time.

      Josh

      December 20, 2011 at 12:58 am

      • It’s about ten pages long…

        Graham Chaffee

        November 6, 2012 at 8:01 am

    • Um… what happens is the elderly couple dies of starvation and/or exposure in their dark, unheated cabin…

      Graham Chaffee

      November 6, 2012 at 8:00 am

  2. It made a big impression of Stephen King. Read his latest.

    Tony Rotondo

    December 29, 2011 at 1:52 am

  3. No story has ever stayed with me quite as much as “The Summer People.” The way the mundane morphs into the terrifying — without anything obviously dire ever actually happening — may be the most masterful storytelling effect I’ve ever encountered.

    The only competition for the slow build-up of horror from the ordinary is also from Jackson — her much more famous “The Lottery.”

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Claire

    July 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm

  4. the Allison’s get eaten …

    Nonya

    December 4, 2013 at 11:06 pm

  5. When I was in High School we did this play in an one act play. It was an interesting play I was the oil man.

    Bruce

    March 25, 2014 at 6:54 am


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.