The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson: Book Review

 Welcome Fortnight of Fright participants! I hope that you enjoy your stay at my little blog. Feel free to pull up a chair and stay a while. For those of you who are wondering what Fortnight of Fright is, it is a two-week long event celebrating everything Halloween and horror-related. It is being hosted by Books Take You Places and The Book's Addict Guide.

Book: The Haunting of Hill House
Author: Shirley Jackson
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publication Date: 1959 (first publication)
Number of Pages: 182
Series: Stand Alone
Reason for Discovery: Read the short Story The Lottery in class and I wanted more.


According to GoodReads:

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House is considered one of the best haunted house stories ever written. According to Wikipedia, "Stephen King...lists The Haunting of Hill House as one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century...According to the Wall Street Journal, the book is "now widely regarded as the greatest haunted-house story ever written." In his review column for F&SF, Damon Knight selected the novel as one of the 10 best genre books of 1959...". Now that I hopefully have provided enough opinions to show that The Haunting of Hill House is a story to be reckoned with, let's talk about what makes this book so awesome.

In this story, Dr. John Montague invites three people to stay with him in a haunted house for the summer: Theo who is a telepath, Eleanor who experienced a paranormal event as a child, and Luke who is the future heir of Hill House. The book is written through the eyes of Eleanor. Dr. Montague wants to gain evidence of paranormal activity. He chose Hill House, because it has a sad history. This house's history is not surprising. Shirley Jackson describes the house as "...a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope. Exorcism cannot alter the countenance of a house; Hill House would stay as it was until it was destroyed." The moment that Eleanor sets foot at Hill House she begins to wonder, if she should have come. The townsfolk steer clear of the property. The housekeepers, a husband and wife, refuse to step foot on the property at night. Dr. Montague and his guests should have avoided the house, because paranormal activity quickly starts.

This story has all of the classic haunting events. There are mysterious creatures, writing on the wall, blood, knocking on doors, and a general sense of foreboding. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as I read the haunting events. As the book progresses, the events worsen, and you have to wonder and worry about what is going to happen to these characters. None of the paranormal events are gory or horror movie-like. These hauntings make you want to hide under the covers with a flashlight, but instead of closing your eyes, you keep reading the book. You want to find out what happens next even though you are scared.

What pluses The Haunting of Hill House and makes it such a favorite is that it is not just a haunted house story. The book, as I mentioned earlier, is told from the eyes of Eleanor. Eleanor is a sad character. She cared for her hurtful and mean mother for several years, and a few months before the book begins, she moved in with her sister, brother-in-law, and their child. These characters continue what Eleanor's mother did and treat Eleanor as a child and ridicule her. The invitation to stay at Hill House gives Eleanor the opportunity to escape and to be her own person. At first, Eleanor feels like she belongs with this motley crew of paranormal investigators; however, Eleanor begins to see herself as an outsider. As the paranormal activity begins to escalate, Eleanor's grip on reality starts to waiver. The reader is left with wondering how reliable of a narrator Eleanor is. For those of you who groaned at that last line, this book can be read strictly as a haunted house story, as a story about a woman who is imaging things, or something else altogether.

There have been two movies based on this book; they are both entitled The Haunting. If you are going to watch the movie version, watch the 1963 version. The 1999 version is not only awful, but it is completely different from the book. 

I give this book 5 out of 5 haunted houses.


10 comments:

Pabkins said...
October 21, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Haha the remake is awful huh? Wow what an awesome shorty read. Though I think I need to give myself a break from the horror for awhile. I burnt myself out on horror and zombies a few months ago. But will add it to the read someday pile.

Wendy said...
October 21, 2013 at 10:28 PM

This sounds creepy!!! I can't handle scary movies so I prob won't be watching those. Scary books I can do sometimes, it depends! I'm a wuss! haha.

Pamela D said...
October 21, 2013 at 11:50 PM

I have definitely scared myself silly with all of these horror books. I am afraid to go into my walk-in closet, because I think the door is going to shut and a ghost is going to pop out!

Pamela D said...
October 21, 2013 at 11:50 PM

The book is fantastic. I have a hard time watching scary movies too. I need to watch scary movies in the daytime, on the TV, with all of the lights on!

Chene Sterckx said...
October 22, 2013 at 2:23 AM

This sounds soooo creepy. I don't think I would be able to handle a book like this but I really enjoyed your review! Should I ever brave this type of book I will give it a try :)

Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.

kimbacaffeinate said...
October 22, 2013 at 8:43 AM

You mentioned the Lottery and I shivered. I read the the Haunting of Hill House years ago, and thought it was creep-tastic. Wonderful review, you make me want to pick it up and revisit it.

Pamela D said...
October 22, 2013 at 11:12 PM

It is a creepy book without being gory or anything like that. It is one of those books that just stays with you.

Pamela D said...
October 22, 2013 at 11:13 PM

Thanks! It was fun rereading this book, because I had not read it in years and it really does hold up over time.

Berls said...
October 25, 2013 at 9:56 PM

I remember reading the Lottery when I was in high school, but never read anything else by this author. This sounds absolutely creeptastic! I'm going to check it out, but I'm blaming you when I can't sleep at night ;) Great review!

Pamela D said...
October 27, 2013 at 1:44 AM

All of her books are great. If you enjoyed The Lottery, you will like her other stories. You may have trouble falling asleep if you imagination is as active as mine though!

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