The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson- 1959 – Horror
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.
This book is the quintessential horror novel and I think it’s a must read for all fans of the genre. You can see the genre-defining aspects on every page, like blood writing on the walls, unseen forces chasing the characters and a creepy protagonist.
The novel is told from the perspective of Eleanor, who is invited by the doctor because she and her sister experienced poltergeist activity as children. I think Eleanor is an interesting look at horror genre characters, because she was not particularly pleasant, and you could feel her descent into madness at the hands of the house. She is a definite trailblazer of the horror genre.
I think the only thing I didn’t like about this novel was Jackson’s style, as it was too literary for me. There were many descriptions of the house for example, but not much actually happened that was truly scary. I’m glad I went into the novel knowing that it was not scary and it feels more like a psychological look at Eleanor’s character, akin to The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Some reviews tell how terrifying this novel is, but I didn’t find that the case.
I gave this book 4/5 on Goodreads. I’d definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for a traditional horror this Halloween. It’s not scary (so you’re safe!) but it does have all the tropes you need this season.