Friday, March 14, 2014

Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson








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I discovered I was a horror fan in my senior year of High School. Discovered or more rightly explored it to its zenith by reading Stephen King’s Pet Sematary . But even before then I was a huge fan of Hammer Horror films, creature features and films like Alien and Halloween. I was exposed to both of those films waaay to young, but they never gave me nightmares.

A year ago I was talking to one of my mentors about what attracts us to certain things and I told her how I was at one time a huge horror fan: books, movies, Fangoria Weekend of Horrors Conventions, yet have found it tapering off a bit. Her reply was : “You like to be scared”. She was so right! I believe a lot of the uncontrollable events of my childhood lead a path to horror or at least the type of horror I enjoy. There is something very releasing about reading or watching a character in peril. You know what you would do. You might even yell it at the book or screen: DONT open that door. DONT walk down those stairs.

The Haunting of Hill House, published in 1959 has  a lot of the familiar tropes that we know from horror fiction and film. Yet Jackson still managed to surprise me and spook me extremely!

She tells the reader in the opening pages that Hill House is not sane. It is a fact in the narrative and she makes no excuses for it. In fact what makes this story so terrifying is the little signs that warn the four visitors away from the place.

Dr. John Montague has sent letters to various people who have experienced paranormal events in their lives,asking them to join him in an exploration of Hill House . Only two women confirm:  Eleanor Vance and  Theodora. They are joined by Luke Sanderson, future inheritor of the house and a bit of a cad. He has been sent there by relatives to stay out of trouble more than to keep an eye on the renters.

Almost immediately strange occurrences begin: ghostly animals walking through the house, banging on doors, doors closing and opening on their own. Yet the four view the events with a detached, scientific air. It soon becomes apparent however that Eleanor is the focus of the houses actions. It is written on the walls (literally) Help Eleanor come home . Eleanor begins to feel an affinity with the house a connection that leaves her less fearful and more longing to stay in the house.

When Mr. Montague's horrible, spiritualist wife shows up she breaks the spell of tension and horror that has keep the reader frantically  turning the pages. After one action of Eleanor's leads to a falling out with the group she is on the cusp of being turned out as it also becomes clear she cannot leave.


Such a great read! In barely 250 pages the reader has a full journey and an ending that leaves the reader to guess was it madness or reality ? Spectacular !


Anonymous said...

One of my favorite books; glad you enjoyed it.

I don't scare easily, especially when reading. The first time I read The Haunting of Hill House was in college. I lived in the dorms in a reputedly haunted room across from the stairwell. Right around the incident of banging on the walls in the book, a group of fellow dormies noisily came up the stairs. I thought I was done for...

Tif Sweeney said...

I really need to read this book!!

Pamela D said...

I am so glad that you liked this book. This is one of my favorite books (and I get nervous reading other people's reviews of my beloved favorites). :)