The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson Review

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Publication: 1959
Publisher:  Penguin Classics
Pages:  182 pages
Source: Golden Lake Used Bookstore
Genre: Horror, Fiction, Classics, Paranormal, Gothic, Paranormal, Gothic
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤⛤

Ever since reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle, I’ve been obsessed with Shirley Jackson. I’ve wanted to read more and more of her work, but I haven’t known where to start. When WiseBraveGirl decided to read The Haunting of Hill House for a Halloween themed book club on Instagram, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to join along since the book was sitting on my bookshelf unopened for at least two years. And now I love Shirley Jackson even more.

The Haunting of Hill House is about four strangers who come together at Hill House to investigate it’s strangeness. Dr. Montague is a scholar of the occult and looking for physical proof of the paranormal so he can be taken seriously by his colleagues which leads him to finding Hill House and the three other participants: Theodora, an apparent mind reader, Eleanor, a sheltered and shy young woman who was haunted by a poltergeist as a child, and Luke, who will one day inherit Hill House.

As the four unpack and settle into the house, strange things happen almost immediately. Doors close by themselves, a bloody message appears on the wall with Eleanor’s name on it, something harasses Theodora and Eleanor at night, as well as many other horrors. With the stress of the events, and tensions running high the three younger occupants at the house (Theodora, Eleanor, and Luke) begin to turn and snipe at one another, while second later being the best of friends.

Jackson ultimately leaves it up to the reader to decide what’s up with Hill House. Is Hill House actually haunted? Did Dr. Montague make the whole thing up with Luke and Theodora to trick Eleanor? Is Eleanor a reincarnation of one of the daughters of the house? Is Eleanor controlling the haunting (my favourite, and based on something I read on the Wikipedia page for the novel that suggests Eleanor is telekinetic and controlling the haunting)?

Jackson is a master at creating unease and terror. Instead of easing into the unsettling environment of Hill House, the reader is often thrown into a scary situation that is already happening, unsure of how, why, or what caused or led up to it. I’d love to talk more about the novel, but since it’s a short book I don’t want to spoil it.

The Haunting of Hill House is a perfect Halloween read, and a great example of Gothic Literature which has just expanded my love for the genre.

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