Published by Penguin Genres: Classics, Fiction
First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.
Yep. I’m going to agree with the pros. The Haunting of Hill House is a defining piece of literature within it’s genre. This is the first time I had read this book and thinking back almost every supernatural horror novel that I’ve read before it contains some echo of this novel.
It’s creepy and horrible in the best way and immediately draws you in with Eleanor, who has been unable to create a life of her own because she’s spent the past 11 years as the caretaker for her dreadful mother. I especially liked this passage:
Eleanor Vance was thirty-two years old when she came to Hill House. The only person in the world she genuinely hated, now that her mother was dead, was her sister. She disliked her brother-in-law and her five-year-old niece, and she had no friends. This was owing largely to the eleven years she had spent caring for her invalid mother, which had left her with some proficiency as a nurse and an inability to face strong sunlight without blinking. She could not remember ever being truly happy in her adult life; her years with her mother had been built up devotedly around small guilts and small reproaches, constant weariness, and unending despair.
Hill House, like Eleanor, waits, empty for someone to fill it up. The haunting may seem mundane by modern standards, but it’s the atmosphere and the character of the house itself that really creates the atmosphere which makes this novel so effective.
One note about the forward in this edition. IT CONTAINS SPOILERS! Luckily it’s a relatively heavy piece of literary analysis and I was ready to go so I skipped it and read it afterwards. If you’ve already read this book then definitely read the forward as it is excellent, if you haven’t, then definitely take the time to read it afterwards.