Saturday, November 9, 2013

Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House
Shirley Jackson

Ghost story

My Rating:


Four seekers have come to Hill House, a scary old abandoned mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar who had been looking for an honestly haunted house all his life; Theodora, a lovely and lighthearted girl there mostly on a lark; Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House; and Eleanor, a strange and lonely woman well acquainted with poltergeists and other psychic phenomena. At first their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and slamming doors. But Hill House is gathering up powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own.
The Haunting Of Hill House is full of horror and mystification and a wit that mixes laughter with chills. Its publication in 1959 confirmed Shirley Jackson as a master at portraying the secret vagaries of the mind, and as a brilliant stylist capable of interjecting the conventions of horror with a psychological complexity not encountered since Henry James. "It is the character of Eleanor and Shirley Jackson's depiction of it that elevates The Haunting Of Hill House into the ranks of the great supernatural novels," Stephen King writes in the introduction to this exclusive Stephen King Horror Library edition. "Indeed, it seems to me that it and James's The Turn Of The Screw are the only two great novels of the supernatural in the last hundred years."


I first read this book in 6th grade but I can't remember much about it or if I even finished it. I loved ghost stories even then and perhaps it bored me then since I could get more thrill from an R.L. Stein or Christopher Pike book at that time.

I watched The Haunting when it came out (back when VHS was still a big thing) and I remembered the characters names at least and knew that it was based off of this book. I can say that the movie was one of my favorites for years since I've always had a thing for big, creepy old houses and ghost stories.

Now, re-reading the book seems a little... odd. I have the movie version stuck in my head so much that the book seems wrong. The characters (the main ones) are the same, as is the house (for the most part), and one or two scenes but otherwise, the movie didn't really follow the book at all. Instead, it drifted off into it's own little whirlwind of horror, which is admirable since if it had followed the book closely, no one would have wanted to see it. I hate to compare books to movies but with this one, I can't really help it. I was very disappointed in the ending because it didn't have any depth and turned out entirely unlike the movie and didn't even seem to have a bleak moment or climax.

As for the book on it's own: I wasn't particularly fond of the dialogue. The characters seemed to go on about the oddest things; as if they were old friends having a picnic in the park. Perhaps it was their way of making light of the situation but I couldn't help but think of them all as children. They could be talking about one thing and out of the blue, one of them would say something along the lines of, "I have red shoes." even though it didn't connect to anything they were saying.
I like cake. I changed a light bulb today. I want to go swimming. Giraffe tongues are a foot long.
Similarly, the 'arguments' were hard to discern because they came out of nowhere and were nothing I would really consider an argument at all. It was as if a 'negative force' was pitting them against each other, but the book never went into any dark strain of thought like that and never hinted at such.

So I can honestly say that if I hadn't previously had an inkling of the book and a predetermined opinion thanks to the film, I would have found this book to be quite lacking and boring. There were only two excerpts that I enjoyed and I guess those could be seen as the most climatic and 'paranormal'.
This was my 'Halloween' read for the year.

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