Friday, October 31, 2008

The Haunting of Hill House

by Shirley Jackson

This book was not on my original pool of books for the RIP challenge but I read so many great things about it that I ordered it when I ordered a new copy of House of Leaves, another haunted house type book that I read years ago and really want to reread. I had to do some traveling and House of Leaves was simply too big to haul around so I took Hill House instead and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The story line is simple. A professor studying the paranormal, Dr. Montigue, rents Hill House, a known haunted house, for the summer and invites some people who have had paranormal experiences before to join him. Two people accept his invitation, Eleanor who has spent her quiet isolated life caring for her ailing mother who has recently passed away and Theodora who is vibrant, self assured and used to being the center of attention. They are also accompanied by Luke, the future heir to the house. As soon as they move into the house strange things start to happen.

The book was beautifully written. I especially enjoyed Eleanor’s fantasies on her drive to Hill House about living a simple life in the picturesque and idyllic houses that she passes which are so greatly contrasted with the descriptions of Hill House. I had a bunch of passages marked to share here but in the aftermath of Hurricane Omar I checked a chain saw as my luggage instead of my clothes and book so you will just have to read it for yourself. I remember that the house itself was described as “not sane” and even all the characters are slightly off kilter, especially Eleanor. I loved that the house itself was a main character and its evil manifested itself in its physical presentation. I also really enjoyed that the story was primarily told from the point of view of Eleanor and you are never sure whether or not she is a reliable narrator.

I can see why this book is a classic of the haunted house genre and would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a well written atmospheric psychological thriller. I am certainly going to read Shirley Jackson’s other popular book, We Have Always Lived in the Castle.


Carl V. said...

I read Castle earlier this year and really enjoyed it and will certainly be picking up this one sometime in the future. I was impressed with Jackson's writing and would love to be able to compare these two books.

Anonymous said...

Haunting of Hill House was one of my favorites in high school. I remember I read it on some sunny vacation with my parents. Reading it on the warm and lovely beach ratcheted up the creepy factor like you wouldn't believe!