Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Haunting of Hill House

Title: The Haunting of Hill House
Author: Shirley Jackson
Publishing Co.: Viking Penguin, Inc.
Pages: 246

The Haunting of Hill House follows the story of four people, Eleanor, Theodora, Luke, and Dr. Montague, as they attempt to uncover actual evidence of a haunting in the old, abandoned mansion called Hill House. While the beginning of their stay only seems to involve odd and annoying encounters with mysterious noises and doors that close on their own, but the house is waiting and plotting. As their stay continues, the house begins to release its sinister powers and will not stop until it claims one of them as its own.

The Haunting of Hill House
is a classic in the horror genre and with good reason! This book grabbed me at the opening paragraph. There is something so chilling about the line: "Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone." With just that one line, Jackson sets the eerie atmosphere and creates an unmistakable sense of foreboding.

It is Jackson's ability to create atmosphere that makes this book such a worthwhile read. More impressively, she creates several different tones within this Gothic horror story. When Eleanor sets out on her journey to Hill House, her near giddy excitement at finally doing something in her life after years of caring for her ailing mother is palpable. Anyone who has set out on a new adventure or gone some place they never have before can understand Eleanor's happiness and Jackson enhances this with wonderfully descriptive words and whimsical daydreams. She also includes some elements of humor with Dr. Montague's crass wife and her laughable dips into spiritualism. Yet, despite these lighthearted images, Jackson never strays too far from that inescapable sense of doom. Throughout the story, she leaves little reminders to the reader that something is wrong and that all will not end well.

I would recommend this book to those who are in the mood for a meaty novel to sink their teeth into. This is not a fast read. In fact, the text is quite dense. There is so much dialogue, interior monologue, and description, that it takes a while to wade through everything. Yet, every word is so important and the text's density makes this book work.

I would also recommend this to anyone who is in the mood for "a good scare," but prefers subtle scares over graphic violence. Indeed, readers who enjoy graphically violent horror novels could also enjoy this story. I am not implying that they would not. However, for those who do not want such an explicit read but definitely want to enjoy a horror story would find this book to be a welcome solution.

1 comment:

  1. Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite authors so of course I love her work. You point out that she writes with density and yet every word is necessary, not one word could be omitted. How true this is. What a fine writer she was!