The Bird's Nest
by Shirley Jackson
Amazon rating
Critique Circle rating 
PublisherPenguin Classics
Release Date2014 (added to CC 1 Oct 2017)
Amazon Sales Rank118,174
Shirley Jackson's third novel, a chilling descent into multiple personalities

Elizabeth is a demure twenty-three-year-old wiling her life away at a dull museum job, living with her neurotic aunt, and subsisting off her dead motherís inheritance. When Elizabeth begins to suffer terrible migraines and backaches, her aunt takes her to the doctor, then to a psychiatrist. But slowly, and with Jacksonís characteristic chill, we learn that Elizabeth is not just one girlóbut four separate, self-destructive personalities. The Birdís Nest, Jacksonís third novel, develops hallmarks of the horror masterís most unsettling work: tormented heroines, riveting familial mysteries, and a disquieting vision inside the human mind.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700†titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the†series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date†translations by award-winning translators.

Member Reviews
(31 May)
Lesser-known "psychological" novel with all the sinister and atmospheric touches that Shirley Jackson's fans know and love. We watch young Elizabeth as she enters the final stages of personality "disintegration" (for lack of a better word). What adds to the fascination of the tale is the way the POV shifts from one character to another: third person, Doctor Wright, Betsy (one of Elizabeth's alters), and Aunt Morgen. As the personality divisions deepen and are revealed, the doctor, the patient and the aunt are clueless about how to deal with a situation that's escalating towards disaster. It isn't until the doctor suspects what's going on that a solution slowly presents itself. Some of the more chilling passages in the book come with the way the alters first manifest themselves, while the sweet, innocent Elizabeth becomes submerged more and more, and the separate personalities confess awareness of each other while vying for the doctor's attention. Very creepy. The only reason I don't give the book a top rating is that the ending is less than satisfactory. Sure, the story resolves itself; the crisis is averted. But it's a little too pat and strange at the same time. Not to give anything away, but a final conversation between one of the major characters and a friend turns quite sinister; it's inconsistent with the down-home, "normal" characterization of a person I looked at as being "trusted" to look out for Elizabeth's welfare. It's as if Jackson didn't know quite the best way to end the novel; or didn't have confidence in there being a 100% happy ending- that there had to be something weird and off-kilter discussed in the closing scenes that, in reality, made me fear for Elizabeth's future psychological (and possibly spiritual) well being. In short, the ending is both pat and off-putting at the same time. But that being said, the book is a fascinating story, the situation an unusual and disturbing view inside a human mind and heart that's falling apart.
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