Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

Book: The Haunting of Hill House

Author: Shirley Jackson

Publisher: Penguin Classics

Release date: 1959

Pages: 182

Genre: Horror

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.

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As someone who doesn’t like horror movies, I always assumed that I wouldn’t enjoy horror books either, which turned out to be a lie. Recently, I have discovered that I like a spooky, scary story from time to time. I had never heard about this book or the movie adaptation until recently,  when the Netflix show came out. I really want to watch that show, but I was intrigued enough to give the book a chance before watching it.

I was expecting a really scary book, but that’s not what I got. This is eerie and uncanny, and it definitely made me feel unsettled at times, but I was never truly scared. Shirley Jackson’s writing works perfectly to fuel the feeling that things are not what they seem, her writing not always makes sense and there’s a lot of description to build up the spooky atmosphere.

The story is told from Eleanor’s pov and even before she gets to Hill House, it’s easy to tell that she is a very particular woman. She has always felt trapped and lonely in her life, she gets distracted easily, she is very imaginative and creates entire fantasies in her head, sometimes not very pleasant ones. She is self-consious and doubts herself and from the very beginning you can tell she’s not gonna be a very reliable narrator.  In that sense, even before getting to Hill House, I already had a sense of not knowing what was real.

When Eleanor finally arrives, the other characters are introduced, none of them are very likeable but they are intriguing nonetheless. The book moves slowly, we get to see the characters becoming friends and exploring the house with only a few strange things happening, it takes a while before the spooky events start to happen. I understand that the wait is supposed to increase the suspense, but to me there were points when I was a bit bored and I felt the book was dragging. 

After certain point in the book, once more and more strange events have occured and Eleanor starts to lose her grip in reality, I found the book got a lot more interesting and compelling, because I couldn’t be sure of what was real and what wasn’t. I was especially doubtful about the interactions between Eleanor and some of the other character where the other characters were unpleasant, I couldn’t figure out if the the characters were unpleasant or they just seemed that way because I was seeing them through Eleanor’s eye and she had sucummed to madness at that point.

About the end I’ll say that I saw it coming, but the author managed to make me believe for one second that it wasn’t gonna go as I was expecting. Even if I saw it coming, I found the ending to be fitting with the story.

Overall, I’ll say this is a eerie and spooky book that would make you feel unsettled and doubt what’s real and what isn’t. If you’re just starting to read horror books, this may be a good one to try. 

 Rating: 3,8 stars 
Have you read this book? Did you watch the movie or the Netflix show? Do you have any recommendations for classic horror books that I should read?

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