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Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

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.(From Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

Those who hail Jackson's work as a masterpiece are correct.  This book is deliciously creepy.  Just read these lines below:

"No human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice.  Almost any house caught unexpectedly or at an odd angle, can turn a deeply humorous look on a watching person, even a mischievous little chimney, or a dormer like a dimple, can catch up a beholder with a sense of fellowship; but a house arrogant and hating, never off guard, can only be evil.....It was a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope.  Exorcism cannot alter the countenance of a house; Hill House would stay as it was until it was destroyed." (pg. 34-35)

Jackson is masterful at creating a frightening air of suspense and I honestly belive this book is the inspiration for many horror story tropes that are famailiar today.  A group of people decide to investigate a purportedly haunted house by staying at said house.  In our group we have the doctor or eminent authority in the field of the supernatural, the snarky flirty girl, the hot guy, and last but not least, the girl who has issues, with a mysterious history, and seems a wee bit odd.  This book was written in 1959, and haven't we all seen this group of people before?  Oh and lets not the forget the house itself.  Hill House is more of a character in this story than some of the people I previously mentioned.  Hill House influences its visitors, and eventually allows them to feel its wrath.  Or does it?  

You see, shortly after the guests arrive they begin to experience paranormal phenomenon.  Doors propped open close themselves, wind rushing through the house, voices, something scratching and banging to be let in your bedroom door.  Is it the house, ghosts, or another cause.  Jackson creates these scenes so well, that the reader can not help but be scared.  I read these passages so quickly I started to skip words.  I had to go back and re-read.  I had goosebumps, was creeped out, but had to know what happened.

This is not a long book, and I read it quickly because it was such a page turner.  My edition is from the Stephen King Horror Library with an introduction by King himself.  I started to read this first but realized it gave some of the story away, so I read it after.  I think this enhanced my reading experience.  I had read for years that this book is considered to be one of the best ghost stories or thrillers.  I have to concur.  I will definitely hang onto my copy and read it again in the future. 

My Rating: 100/100
Publisher: Viking Penguin (Penguin Group)
Genre: thriller, ghost story
Hardback 246 pages
Book Source: my shelves (Paperbackswap)

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