‘The Summer People’ by Shirley Jackson

My first Shirley Jackson story was ‘The Lottery’, with the added magic of hearing the author’s own audio recording of it (here). There are so many of her stories I could have included here but I’ve picked ‘The Summer People’.

Mr and Mrs Allison, “city people”, spend every winter looking forward to staying in their summer cottage, and every autumn they’re sorry to leave. This year, with nothing much to get back to New York for, they decide to stay on. The locals, on whom they depend for groceries and fuel, are not encouraging, and repeatedly remind the Allisons that Labor Day is when people leave. They’re going to give it a try though. “Never know till you try.” This story is a brilliant example of Jackson’s writing about small communities and outsiders, and her engineering of creeping dread.

First published in Charm, September 1950. Collected in Dark Tales, Penguin Classics, 2016

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