A couple of years ago, I read one of Shirley Jackson’s more popular books: We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I found it amazing. The writing was beautiful and the storyline instantly captured my attention.
I have been wanting to read more of Jackson’s work ever since but I have just never gotten around to it. My Dad recommended that I read The Haunting of Hill House since it was also quite a creepy book with a brilliant narrative. I decided that I would trust his recommendation so I went to his bookshelves, plucked it off the shelf, sat myself down and immersed myself in it straight away.
The Haunting of Hill House is a 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.
This book is 182 pages but that doesn’t mean that it’s a quick read. With Jackson’s writing, the description is key to the storyline so if you’re one of those readers who aren’t keen on a description and just skim read it, that won’t work for this book. The descriptions build up the spooky atmosphere of Hill House and create the foundations of the friendships between the four characters.
The story is told from Eleanor Vance’s point of view. She’s a thirty-two-year-old woman who has had to look after her Mother all of her life. She doesn’t have her own apartment (she lives with her sister and her sister’s husband) and has never felt fully free and independent. So when she’s chosen to be one of Dr. Montague’s assistants, she jumps at the chance and cannot wait to be in the outside world and finally be doing something that she wants to do, something that will get excited coursing through her veins.
“Without ever wanting to become reserved and shy, she had spent so long alone, with no one to love, that it was difficult for her to talk, even casually, to another person without self-consciousness and an awkward inability to find words.”– Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
There are three properly terrifying bits in this book which is pretty impressive since I don’t get scared by books (films, yes… I’m a huge wimp when it comes to scary films, I simply won’t watch them.) The rest of the scariness in the book comes from the atmosphere that is created and the fear of the unknown. The ending is also a thriller rollercoaster but an ending that I cannot say much about because of spoilers – just know that it’s fast-paced and crazy.
The only thing that I didn’t like about this book was the characters of Mrs. Montague and Arthur. They came in three-quarters of the way through the story and they were such horrible characters that I didn’t want to read them. Mrs. Montague was condescending towards her husband and looked down on Luke, Theodora, and Eleanor. I really did not like them and I felt they ruined the storyline a bit.
Other than those two characters, I found this book thoroughly enjoyable. If Mrs. Montague and Arthur weren’t in it, this book would have been five stars but unfortunately, their unnecessary, pointless appearance made this book four stars.
If you’re looking for a thrilling, creepy book then I recommend that you give The Haunting on Hill House a go! And then when you’ve finished watching it, watch the film – but watch the original (1963) because it stays very close to the book and builds up the atmosphere much better than the 1999 one.
Have you read any Shirley Jackson before? What did you think? Leave a comment below!