Friday, October 31, 2014

The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson

Summary: The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre

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.

For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators. (picture and summary from

My Review:  Dracula. Frankenstein’s Monster. Hill House? Oh, you betcha peeps. This book is not only a horror classic, but Hill House itself deserves its place in the pantheon of classic monsters.

The book starts out with the description of the characters, which I feel really describes the time period in which it was written. It gives an introduction of each player—including the house, cause it’s cool like that—with enough information that you can tell that the people are not only doomed, but that they’ve been groomed and hand-selected for an adventure such as this. I think this is great about books from this era—there is no need for pop psychobabble or too much delving into feelings or drama. This person has this background. They may or may have not killed their mother. They may or not be a psychopath, time will tell. They may have a temper problem. The end. It’s a fun and spooky way to introduce the characters and lets them to develop in a way that allows me as the reader to not be too involved in their psyche, but also to be involved in a way that only a person very removed can see the degradation of character and the rising of insanity.

And oh, does this ever happen. Because Hill House is a force unto itself. There are things that happen in Hill House that are the stuff of nightmares. It’s not the covert blood sucking of Dracula, but a more visible and psychological assault that you can’t help but watch and experience with horror.  The writing is great and allows for this, too. Shirley Jackson doesn’t beat around the bush. She’s writing a horror story about a monster house and you bettah believe she’s gonna deliver.

There’s nothing much cooler than a scary atmosphere, right? It’s all about the atmosphere. Even the best villains are nothing if they aren’t set in a scary atmosphere. And so that’s what’s great about Hill House. The background—the very atmosphere—is the actual monster. Even if there are, per se, monsters within Hill House, it’s Hill House itself that creates this fear and dread and in the end, claims something for its very own.

The thing I loved about this book is that it really is legit scary, and it doesn’t need to be all Walking Dead with visible gore and pushed-to-the-limits language and happenings. Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some Walking Dead. But I really loved the creepy, wait-for-it dread and then downright scary moments that Hill House had to offer. It’s a great Halloween read, a definite classic, and one to check out if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path with a monster that isn’t your normal run of the mill vampire or other Halloween trickster.

My rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book is uber creepy and does have some shocking scenes, but it is relative to the time period and pretty light sauce for today’s horror standards.

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