Title: The Haunting of Hill House
Author: Shirley Jackson
Length: 182 pages
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Release Date: October 16, 1959
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: gothic horror
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.
I went into this book fairly blind. This is my first Shirley Jackson book. I have not seen the Netflix series (yet), but I have heard that it is very scary. I knew the book would be very different from the series, but I expected it to be just as scary. This is not a scary book.
This book is definitely eerie. Under somewhat sketchy circumstances, an eclectic group of people visit Hill House to research paranormal phenomena in the notoriously haunted house. Hill House, unsettling by design, was like a character of its own. The haunting experiences were creepy, and the longer the visitors stayed in the house, the greater the psychological effects of these phenomena. The house singles out one inhabitant in particular, making her feel like she has finally found a place she belongs.
However, some aspects of this book just went over my head. The story had an unreliable narrator, but I still think that most of the hauntings were real. Characters would be terrified by their experiences at night, only to discuss them with a blasé attitude the next morning. I didn’t understand why two new characters were introduced close to the end of the story. Basically, I wanted to be more scared and I just didn’t get it!
This book is odd. I know that classic horror tends to be more psychological and abstract than scary, but my expectations were not in the right place for this one. I would like to reread this someday so that I can appreciate it for what it is instead of what I thought it would be, and pick up on some things that I missed.