The Bird’s Nest (1954) ~ Shirley Jackson


Shirley Jackson’s novel The Bird’s Nest is a mental health thriller, based on the idea of multiple personality disorder (or in the language of the book “split personalities”). Telling the story of the dull, polite, and demure Elizabeth Richmond, The Bird’s Nest is told mostly from the perspective of her hypnotherapist Dr Wright, as he unravels the physical and mental manifestations of Elizabeth’s illness.
The novel is darkly funny, and at times grotesque, as Jackson creates a disquieting world for Elizabeth, her guardian Aunt Morgen, and her doctor. It is important to note that while this novel is based on mental health, the terminology and thoughts about mental health and wellness is dated. Between the doctor’s treatments and the understanding of why a young woman would be mentally ill in the first place can be a bit disturbing to a modern-day reader.

If you enjoy Jackson’s works such as the short story The Lottery or the recently-adapted by Netflix The Haunting of Hill House, I would recommend The Bird’s Nest. It is a dense read, though it is only 256 pages long, so be prepared to focus.

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