The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Published by Penguin Books on September 24, 2019 (first published October 16, 1959)
Source: Purchased
Genres: Classic, Horror
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
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four-stars

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, the 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.

“Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

The Haunting of Hill House is more eerie than scary. Jackson’s writing is so tight and so descriptive in ways that make you think about ordinary things, like houses, differently. The plot itself is not outstanding, maybe because it’s almost become a template of haunted house stories. Three people, Eleanor, Theodora and Luke, are invited to stay in a supposedly haunted house for the summer to aid a scientist, Dr. Montague, in his pursuit of paranormal investigation. We some started banging, laughs, cold spots, a ghostly scene, but really the story is about Eleanor. We see this world through her eyes. Eleanor’s eyes. She is insecure, introverted, and often finds herself fantasizing about her current and future situations. She’s not a reliable narrator to any extent.

Eleanor is affected by the house more than any of the others. While they all see and feel some of the manifestations, but some she only hears and others are directed at her by name. Slowly, the house gets inside her head. She’s been lonely and timid and maybe the house does want her when it seems like no one else does, not even her new friends/fellow adventurers. It’s really hard to tell how much is real, how much in Eleanor’s mind, and how much is stuff she is actually doing herself.

The ending is perfect. It doesn’t necessarily wrap the story up. We are left with questions and the uneasiness of not knowing what really happened at Hill House, but it fits the characters and the narration so well.

About Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson

Shirley Hardie Jackson (December 14, 1916 – August 8, 1965) was an American writer, known primarily for her works of horror and mystery. Over the duration of her writing career, which spanned over two decades, she composed six novels, two memoirs, and over 200 short stories.

A native of San Francisco, California, Jackson later attended Syracuse University in New York, where she became involved with the university’s literary magazine and met her future husband Stanley Edgar Hyman. The couple settled in North Bennington, Vermont in 1940, after which Hyman established a career as a literary critic, and Jackson began writing.

After publishing her debut novel The Road Through the Wall (1948), a semi-autobiographical account of her childhood in California, Jackson gained significant public attention for her short story “The Lottery,” which details a secret, sinister underside to a bucolic American village. She continued to publish numerous short stories in literary journals and magazines throughout the 1950s, some of which were assembled and reissued in her 1953 memoir Life Among the Savages. In 1959, she published The Haunting of Hill House, a supernatural horror novel widely considered to be one of the best ghost stories ever written.

A reclusive woman, Jackson remained in North Bennington for the last years of her life, and was reluctant to discuss her work with the public. By the 1960s, her health began to deteriorate significantly as a result of her increasing weight and cigarette smoking, ultimately leading to her death of heart failure in 1965 at the age of 48.

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4 Comments

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  2. I saw the TV series last year and enjoyed it tremendously. I wanted to read the book afterwards, but then realized the show is completely different from the book, which put me off a bit. I do like classic gothic novels though so I probably should give this a go sometime.

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