Title: The Haunting of Hill House
Author: Shirley Jackson
Genre: fiction (“creepy” fiction)
Year Published: 1959 (counts towards my Years of Books goal 🙂 )
Source: public library
Reason for Reading: RIP Challenge (Peril the Second)
Book Description (from back cover):
Past the rusted gates and untrimmed hedges, Hill House broods and waits…
Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant (*Note: this is untrue, she is invited, just as the other two, and has never known Dr. Montague); Eleanor, a lonely, homeless girl (*Note: she is in fact 32, not a girl, and is not exactly homeless) acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous (*Note: cowardly) future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and self-closing doors (*Note: they know who closes the doors, and it is a real person), but Hill House is gathering its powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own….
While this is the official summary of the book, I think the story is very well introduced in the first two sections of the first chapter, about 8-9 pages (for that reason, I cannot copy all of it down 😀 )
My Thoughts: Well, as you may have noticed, I made a few notes to the book’s summary, which is on the back cover. It is perhaps the fact that the summary is not completely true to the story that makes me not love this book. I have read Jackson’s work before–We Have Always Lived in the Castle quite recently–and I have to say that I love her writing. Her stories just flow in a way that I love, even if I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I had hoped, in this case. I thought this book would have more creepiness to it, which is why I chose it to read for the RIP Challenge. But it just wasn’t all that creepy. I guess I had anticipated more ghostly creepiness than the creepiness associated with a person losing their mind, and being in that mind.
“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.” (p34)
Doesn’t that just sort of sound creepy?! But, I don’t think the story lived up to this description of Hill House. Hill House more or less made one of the main characters go insane, but not in such a direct way that would be alluded to from this quote. Hill House doesn’t really seem alive in the book, at least not to me–but it seems to be described as being alive.
I don’t know. I mean, when I read WHALitC, I hadn’t exactly realized how creepy the story was until after I had finished it and discussed it with other people on the RBC threads; especially after someone brought up a certain idea about the real existence of one of the main characters. So maybe I just need to look back into this story a little more. Has anyone else read it? What did you think?
My Thoughts on the Cover: The cover doesn’t actually look all that scary to me. The greenish glow to the sky is probably the most unsettling. But I imagined the house to be surrounded by more woods and to even be set into larger hills. The house has some weird angles, as the book described, but it doesn’t look too bad. Perhaps if it was full night- or daylight rather than dusk it would look scarier–but in dusk, it seems to be in its element.
Just another quote I liked:
“‘Fear,’ the doctor said, ‘is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.'” (p159)
This is the first book I finished during Dewey’s
24-Hour Readathon 😀