Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Title: The Haunting of Hill House
Author: Shirley Jackson
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: October 16, 1959
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

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.

My Review:

My MOST favorite thing about October reading is the excuse to read spooky, creepy novels.  Each year, I try to make time during this month for at least one Halloween-ish read that's been on my TBR list for a long time.  This year, I'm reading rather slowly this month, so I knew I had to choose just one.  The Haunting of Hill House got the distinction because it's a bit of a supernatural classic, and I've heard nothing but good reviews from my favorite reader friends.  (Plus, I was under the (mistaken) impression that it was the inspiration for the 1959 Vincent Price movie, House on Haunted Hill.  Not the case, but the movie is good anyway--do watch!)

Overall, this book fell into the "good not great" category for me.  I'll admit up front that this could be an issue of spoilers.  The edition that I read had an introduction by Stephen King at the beginning, and since I will read literally anything that that man writes, of course I jumped into it first.  But wouldn't you know...it was full of spoilers.  CHOCK FULL.  Why in the world would you put an introduction on a novel that is full of giveaways about the ending?  Ugh.  As soon as I realized that I was getting too much info, I stopped reading the introduction, but the damage was done.  Therefore, I went into the novel already knowing what would happen to the protagonist (Eleanor), and that made the conclusion lose its edge for me.

Despite the spoilers, I still felt a little underwhelmed by my Haunting of Hill House experience.  The events were spooky, but not necessarily scary.  I often had more fun figuring out the dynamics between the characters (especially Eleanor and Theodora) than I did watching Hill House's ghosts play their nocturnal games.  I guess, after so many reviews telling me that this wasn't a book to read alone in the dark, I was expecting more thrills and chills.

I don't mean to pan the book so much though, honestly.  It was still fun to read, and definitely great for October--grab your fleece blanket and a cup of tea, and this is perfect for a fall afternoon.  Even if it's not particularly scary, it is a "literary" thriller, so it's interesting to see how the characters play off of each other, and how Eleanor in particular manages to change throughout the book.

The Haunting of Hill House was middle-of-the-road for me, but I still think it's worth a read...especially if you don't get the ending ruined for you beforehand, like I did!

Have you ever read the introduction of a book, only to find that it's got spoilers from the novel in it?  This has happened to me before Hill House as well.  What is up with that??


  1. I just read this too. I'm super glad that I skipped the intro! I didn't want to because I rarely do. BUT it was LONG and I had a feeling that it contained spoilers. What a bummer that you were spoiled :/ Boo!

    1. It was suuuuuper long. I made it about a third of the way through before the spoilers were a-flyin'. What did you think of it??

  2. I'd heard that this book wasn't too scary and that makes it appeal to me more. I enjoy doing some seasonal reading, but I'm kind of scaredy cat about horror!

    1. Ah, see, I think that's part of why I wasn't all that into it. October is the one time of year I like to let books scare my pants off. Haha!

  3. I just finished this one on audio and honestly couldn't give you a synopsis—just didn't grip me, my mind wandered, I have no idea why I listened all the way through. Just stubborn determination, I guess? I also tried to read "Wuthering Heights" recently but DNF after a week of struggling through 50 pages. I think gothic classics just aren't for me. :-/

    1. Oh yes, I could see this being VERY hard to stick with on audio. There is a lot of rambling, a lot of introspection, and not a lot of good dialogue to suck you in. Wuthering Heights, however, is a favorite of mine! Perhaps it's just the gothic "horror" that I don't click with.

  4. I read King's Salem's Lot this October and in the preface to that book he mentions and praises The Haunting of Hill House highly and says that he got a lot of inspiration from that book, thankfully there were no spoilers, but I do want to read this book now.

    1. Yes, I remember reading that preface as well! One of the many reasons that this book was high on my list. I do think I liked Salem's Lot better though. ;)

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