Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson's tale of things that go bump in the night...

   Four strangers have come to spend a summer at Hill House, led by Dr. Montague, a scholar who is writing a book about hauntings and paranormal activity.  Dr. Montague is accompanied by Theodora, Eleanor, and Luke - all clueless about what to expect at Hill House.  Soon strange things begin to happen - loud noises, laughter, singing, and doors slamming shut all on their own.  But it soon becomes apparent that Hill House is just as much a state of mind as it is an old spooky mansion, and Eleanor's mental state may not be strong enough to hold back the unseen forces of Hill House.

   I am a huge Shirley Jackson fan, so I'm embarrassed to admit that this is my first time reading The Haunting of Hill House.  Maybe because it's so famous and often discussed I thought I knew what was going to happen, but Shirley Jackson is full of surprises.  Eleanor's mind is truly an unreliable vantage point, though, so the mysteries of Hill House will likely remain mysteries.

   This book is very readable in that it's not nearly as terrifying as other books in the horror genre, but keep in mind that it was published in 1959.  Even though The Haunting of Hill House is not a blood and guts type books, it still has the psychological power of giving you that uneasy, creepy crawly feeling.  As Dorothy Parker put it: "Shirley Jackson is unparalleled as leader in the field of beautifully written, quiet, cumulative shudders."