The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson: B-

hillhouseFrom the back cover:
Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, the lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House.

At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and self-closing doors, but Hill House is gathering its powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own.

The Haunting of Hill House is considered a classic of the horror genre, but honestly, I found it to be a mite snoozeworthy. I think the main problem is me. I’m a desensitized reader in the 21st century, far more difficult to shock and frighten, I assume, than the typical reader in 1959, when the book was published.

It’s the story of four people who gather to spend a summer at the supposedly haunted Hill House and report on paranormal activity there. Eleanor, a lonely woman who’s spent a sheltered decade caring for her ailing mother, quickly emerges as the protagonist, and early on displays a tendency for fanciful ramblings, as each time she passes a picturesque spot on her drive to Hill House, she concocts a story about how she has lived there and lovingly cared for the stone lions flanking the drive, et cetera.

Upon arrival, she quickly makes friends with the other female in the group, Theo. They bond during various terrifying (to them) supernatural disturbances, but the friendship is tested when the house begins to exert its power over Eleanor. It’s subtle at first, but by the end Eleanor is quite taken over by the place and the ending, though rather predictable, is great.

Besides my not finding any of the events truly creepy, Eleanor herself is the primary reason I didn’t enjoy the book more. Even before she begins to be affected by the house, she’s annoying, with a non-stop inner dialogue of self-doubt and worry about what others thought of her that really got on my nerves. Worse than Eleanor is Dr. Montague’s wife, whom I absolutely hated. Thankfully, she’s only present at the very end; I wonder why her odious presence was deemed necessary at all.

In the end, there are elements of the story that I liked and ones that I didn’t. But that’s okay; it’s never a waste of time to read a classic!

Did you enjoy this article? Consider supporting us.

Speak Your Mind