★★★★★, Book Reviews

Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House

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The Haunting of Hill House
by: Shirley Jackson
★★★★★

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First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. 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, his 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. (Goodreads)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not normally one for horror books. Oh I’ll read them, sure, but I won’t usually make the conscious decision to pick one up off the shelf, or if I do, I’ll stand there for 15 minutes longer than any normal shopper would, saying “hmmm” and “ehhh” while stroking my chin and flipping from the cover to the back to the table of contents seven times before deciding “maybe next time.” Really the only time I’ll read a horror novel is when my bff shoves one of his copies my way while screaming, “KARA, FOR THE LOVE OF THE HORROR GODS, YOU HAVE TO READ THIS.”

But I gotta say, after reading The Haunting of Hill House, I don’t think I will ever again pass up a Shirley Jackson novel or pause to stroke my chin when skimming past her name. No, no, my friends. You’re looking at the words of one new-but-true Shirley Jackson fan right here. So please allow me to pour my excitement all over this page as I discuss The Haunting of Hill House!

This novel is primarily considered a horror novel, but it really is so much more than that. I often forgot I was reading a tale of terror because of the unique way it was told and the almost casual nature (denial, much?) of some of the characters. It’s not a book strictly filled with spooky happenings and frightened characters. In fact, the characters spend a surprisingly minimal amount of time expressing fear. Rather, the novel focuses more on looking inside the minds of Eleanor and Theo and Luke and Dr. Montague and, importantly, Hill House itself. It delves into the darkest parts of the psyche while still remaining, on the surface, a truly eerie story about life inside a haunted house. Think Amityville Horror, but… different. More personal. Hill House doesn’t simply turn you into a murdering maniac; it builds off of your deepest secrets in the darkest parts of your mind to slowly drive you insane.

If you’re looking for a horror read like no other, I’d highly, highly suggest picking up this Shirley Jackson novel. She has such an interesting way of storytelling, and she manages to take the horror novel one step further by focusing on more of a character-driven plot rather than just relying on the scare factors. She pulls you into Hill House and refuses to let go. She doesn’t just tell a story; she invites you in to Hill House to experience the haunting yourself and, by extension, allows Hill House to work its way into your mind. So read it if you dare! Personally, I think you should take the risk. 😉

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