Book Reviews: The Haunting of Hill House

Thursday, November 18, 2010


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

Dr. Montague is a scientist attempting to prove the supernatural exists. To further his study he invites a small group of people to summer at Hill House, which is supposedly haunted. The invitation is accepted by Eleanor, a socially awkward, nervous woman and Theo, an outgoing beauty. Luke, who will one day inherit the house, also joins the gathering. Soon things start happening and all four people wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into.

Jackson’s ghost story has a similar feel to Henry James’ Turning of the Screw and Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger. You know things are happening in the house, but you don’t know for sure whether it’s the inhabitants madness or ghosts or a combination of both.

Eleanor, who is the focus of the book, seems to have a predisposition to mental instability. She’s insecure and temperamental, a bit like a child. Her issues give the whole book and extra layer of creepiness and desperation.

Side Note: About 20 pages into the book I realized that the 1999 movie “The Haunting” was clearly based on it. I also watched the original film, also titled “The Haunting” after finishing the book. The older version stays much closer to the book and the spookiness factor is high. The movie “The House on Haunted Hill” actually has nothing to do with this book.

11 comments:

Charley said...

I like books that feature the house as a character. This strikes me as a good book to read on a stormy day.

Yvonne said...

I read the book and also saw the "newer" movie with Liam Neeson. I think the book was better which is always the case. But I agree the house was as much of a "character" at the humans were.

Avid Reader said...

Charley - I agree. I read this one just before Halloween and it was perfect timing.

Becky (Page Turners) said...

I read Turning of the Screw and The Little Stranger this year and have decided to give more ghost stories a go next year. I really enjoy a good ghost story.

Although, I wasn't as pleased with The Little Stranger. It would have been better if there had been some closure

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Definitely one that I need to read soon! I saw this quite a bit when everyone was participating in the RIP Challenge -- I need to put this on the list!

Avid Reader said...

Becky - The Little Stranger is lacking on closure, but then again, we never know for sure with Turning of the Screw either.

Jenners said...

I'll have to add this to the list for next year's RIP Challenge ... as well as the Water's book.

Amanda said...

I read this in 1999 after seeing The Haunting of Hill House, and was very disappointed with it. I felt like it was cliched and old fashioned. I didn't realize that it was about 50 years old! I thought it was a modern book, so I didn't realize all those "cliches" were actually probably one of the first times they'd been used! It was only last year when I realized how skewed my perception was. I read We Have Always Live in the Castle this year and adored it, and I will definitely be rereading this book next year during RIP. I'm pretty sure my feelings on it will change with the change in perspective!

Nymeth said...

There's definitely a James-ish and Waters-ish vibe to this (or actually, a Jackson-ish vibe to Waters :P). I really loved all three books.

Avid Reader said...

Amanda - I've done the same thing with other books. I thought The Awakening was much more recent when I first read it and was blown away to discover how old it was.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is next on my list.

Will Errickson said...

An essential novel! "Castle" is terrific as well, as is "The Sundial" and her short stories. She's one of my perennial faves.