The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill HouseThe Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Actual rating of 4.5

Eleanor Vance is one of the people contacted by Dr. Montague, his letter is asking for participants in an experiment that will last the summer, and is being held in Hill House. Since the death of her mother, Eleanor hasn’t had much in her life so decides to take a leap and go along to Hill House, her sister is severely against this, and voices as such, but Eleanor has already decided. After stealing the car she shares with her sister, as her sister and brother-in-law refused to let her use it, she packs up her meager belongings and heads off on an adventure of her lifetime. Once at the house, she soon meets Theodora, just Theodora, a whimsical sensitive, and Luke Sanderson, the heir to Hill house, as well as Dr. Montague. Over the next week or so, things start to get weird inside Hill House, and the inhabitants begin to feel the effects of the house itself. Are they experiencing some kind of mass hysteria? Is Hill House really haunted? or is it all the figment of one person’s imagination?

I have no doubt that this book’s sales will have picked up a bit since the release of the Netflix TV show of the same name. If you’re reading this book hoping for more insight into the TV shows characters and storyline, I’m telling you to turn back now. This book is the original haunted house story, and while there are a lot of things from the book, namely thoughts, stories, lines and names, that are used in the TV show, the story is incredibly different to that one. I found it refreshing though, while I did buy this book after watching the show, I knew that it would be entirely different, and I was looking forward to seeing where the story originally came from, and I was not disappointed. I have to admit that I did get giddy when I came across lines from the book that were used in the show, I love that the show’s writer’s tried to bring as much from the book into their story, while still creating a story all of their own.

The way that Jackson was able to make Hill House real without even actually describing the house itself, was just pure brilliance. I felt the oppressing darkness that permeated the walls of Hill House, and it felt suffocating. Jackson was able to convey this just by using words alone, painting the picture of this ginormous, overbearing building, that somehow felt alive, and as though it was a sentient being who could hear, feel, and see everything that went on in and around it. That the house itself had thoughts and purpose, that of which was to make any inhabitants fear it, was just awe inspiring. Jackson lets you decide what Hill House looks like, with just a little nudging along the way.

The characters, oh my, the characters. Dr. Montague was the protective fatherly character, gentle and all knowing, just wanting to help others, to make sure that everyone is okay and comfortable. All he wants is to find out if the paranormal really exists, or if it’s all in our minds. Luke, the pleasant, always happy to help, gentleman, who, other than these traits, was pretty blank to me, he became a lot more of a background character through my reading. Theodora, lovely Theodora, she is vibrant, hyper, and needs to be center of attention. She is overbearing but in a nice way, she takes Eleanor under her wing, and they soon start proclaiming that they are ‘cousins’. And Eleanor, I found her to be incredibly childlike, it’s obvious that she’s never been able to take charge of her life, and you can see the impact that it had on her adult life. Her thought patterns and her actions are very childish, the way her imagination runs wild on her trip to hill house makes one think that she never got the chance to play as a child and USE that imagination. She suddenly becomes quite manic, in my opinion, you could see her mental state start to deteriorate, with things that she said or did, but I realised that all of a sudden, she came across as absolutely crazy. Though I feel this had a lot to do with the house itself.

The happenings in hill house were few, but they still made an impact. They were unnerving and I couldn’t imagine going through the same things without becoming completely unhinged. Some of them raised questions for me, and I’m still not 100% sure what happened. There is one situation in particular that I’m still wondering whether it really happened, or was it mass hysteria. I doubt that I’ll ever find out which one it was, but it makes you think.

While we don’t have much to do with Mr. Dudley, we encounter Mrs. Dudley a few times, and I have to say, she creeped me out, it was very reminiscent of playing a video game and coming across a Non Playable Character (NPC) who only has a couple of responses when you talk to them. Mrs. Dudley never seemed to respond with anything other than her time table for meal times. Yet when Mrs. Montague arrived, a character heard them speaking, having an ACTUAL conversation that didn’t revolve around meal times. It makes me wonder, why was she so robotic when it came to our original four inhabitants?

When I finished this book last night, and turned the light out, I felt creeped out. It took a moment, but the story did unsettle me, even though it’s nothing like horror stories that I’ve read today, one must remember, this is the ORIGINAL haunted house horror story. And it did not disappoint for me. I found sometimes the dialogue and storline a little hard to follow, but I have to wonder whether that was the point when paired with what was happening in the scene at the time. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I’m shattered that it took me this long to read it. No doubt I’ll re-read this book at some stage.

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