I know it’s not very original, but I’ve long had an interest in suburbia. Watching movies like Edward Scissorhands and reading books like The Stepford Wives only fuelled that; I love the idea of the secrets that lie below the surface of a seemingly perfect life. Shirley Jackson clearly shared that interest, and managed to turn it into a fantastic, suspenseful novel.
Jackson is most well known for books like The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but while I like those, I absolutely adore her short stories. I’ve never read another writer who has Jackson’s ability to bring to the surface the ways in which we can be nasty to other people, and turn them into suspense or horror stories. The Road Through the Wall is a great example of that.
Told from the points of view of various adults and children living on an idyllic street in the 1940s, the book initially reads as an ensemble character study, but quickly turns into something more sinister, as Jackson lays bare all the ways in which the road’s residents tear each other down to build themselves up. The adults are close-minded and hypocritical, but I found the children’s cruelty and ever-changing pecking order even more interesting.
If I’ve piqued your interest in this book, I do have to warn you that it takes a little while to get started, and it doesn’t end in a particularly suspenseful climax. But it is a good, slow burn of a book, that so far has stayed with me for months after I finished it.