Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Four seekers have arrived at the rambling old pile known as Hill House:  Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of psychic phenomena; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Luke, the adventurous future inheritor of the estate; and Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past.  As they begin to cope with chilling, even horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead.  For Hill House is gathering its powers - and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

I think most of us know that book blogging doesn't have a lot of drawbacks.  We get to read/review new books that we may not have been exposed to any other way.  There is this wonderful community that gives us a forum to talk about something that we derive so much pleasure from, and they don't plug their ears while we are doing it.  I could list the benefits of book blogging until I turn blue in the face, but that wouldn't get me any closer to making a point.

And my point is this, for me, if there is a drawback to book blogging, it's that I don't reread my favorite books as often as I would like, or even as often as I used to.  Before book blogging, I was a voracious rereader of my favorite books.  I never understood why I wouldn't want to revisit a book if I loved it.  It would be like meeting a real cool person, hanging out with them for a week, becoming good friends, and then never returning a phone call because you've been there, done that.  I would look forward to picking up an old friend, and diving back into the characters and a story that never gets old, never fails to entertain, and never lets me down.  One of those books is, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

I can't remember the first time I read this book, but I know it was after I watched The Haunting, the 1963 screen adaptation with Julie Harris and Claire Bloom.  Actually, I'm pretty sure I had seen the movie quite a few times before I ever picked up the book.  Once I did, my love for the story only deepened.  I've lost count of the times I've dived back into Hill House, but sadly this is the first time I've picked it up in the three years I've been blogging.  Once I opened up that cover, it was like coming home.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the story, never seen the movie, and didn't read the synopsis, the plot is pretty simple.  Researcher wants nothing more than to prove the existence of the supernatural, so when he finds the perfect house to investigate, Hill House, he starts to assemble a team to help him out.  By searching through the records of paranormal investigators, newspapers, and police records, he compiles a list of individuals with previous experience with the unexplained.  Of those he invites, only two of them show up, so with the nephew of the owner along for the ride, they get to work.

Where this book leaves most other haunted house tales behind in the dust, is in the way Shirley Jackson crafted her characters and in the atmosphere of the house they inhabit.  When the author sat down and created the characters of Dr. Montague, Luke, Theo, and Eleanor, the writing gods must have been looking down upon her.  In those characters, especially with Eleanor, Shirley Jackson created such vibrant, psychologically complex characters who I never tire of spending time with them.  The way she takes the character of Eleanor and integrates her with Hill House, is such a feat, that only a true wordsmith can accomplish.

Hill House itself, is one of the most important characters, a character so essential to the book, that this masterpiece could not exist without it.  Hill House breathes.  It moves and ungulates in subtle ways, manipulating it's occupants by playing with their minds.  It's off angularity throws the research team off their game, almost from the beginning.  It's a house that lives in every way.  It's mean.  It's evil.  It wants nothing more than to take, for itself, the lives residing within.


Michael @ Literary Exploration said...

I really want to read this book...hopefully soon

Peter S. said...

Hi, Ryan!

Hands down, this is my favorite horror novel and one of my all-time favorite books. I love the atmosphere that Jackson evokes in the novel. And the horror isn't the in-your-face type. There's plenty of room for your imagination to play around with. And I guess that's why it works so well, because you're the one who keep imagining the horror!

Mystica said...

You've made me want to read this one. Thanks for an amazing review.

bermudaonion said...

I've never been much of a re-reader so that drawback doesn't bother me! lol

This sounds terrifically creepy. I really need to try one of Jackson's books.

Bev Hankins said...

I just recently picked this one up...I've set it aside for next Fall's R.I.P. challenge. I'm not much for horror, but this one does sound very good.

JaneGS said...

I completely resonate with the blogging/rereading issue. I am a rereader but since I've been blogging, I find I reread less. Not that I'm complaining, but there are old friends who've I've neglected lately!

I love the premise of Haunting of Hill House, and think I will put this on my reading list for 2013. Jackson is a very skillful writer whom I admire very much, though I was so relieved when I finally reached the end of We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Great review!

Angela's Anxious Life said...

I love love this book! So well told and perfectly creepy!!

Lisa said...

I've never read this one. I picked it up for R.I.P. but didn't get to it. Perhaps I'll have to make it a seasonally inappropriate Christmas read!