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The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Classics) Paperback – November 28, 2006
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"The scariest book I’ve ever read." —Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties
"The books that have profoundly scared me...are few....But Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House beat them all...It scared me as a teenager and it haunts me still."—Neil Gaiman, author of Norse Mythology
About the Author
Laura Miller, previously an editor at Salon.com, writes essays and reviews for the New York Times, the New Yorker, and other publications.
- Publisher : Penguin Classics; 1st edition (November 28, 2006)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 208 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143039989
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143039983
- Lexile measure : 920L
- Item Weight : 5.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.05 x 0.54 x 7.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Yes, of course there are differences, but predictable ones like cutting for length. After all, films are able to tell us more in less time than a book can. The characters are fairly consistent with the novel save for the doctor's wife who is, if anything, worse than her film version. The relationships are not precisely the same, but the spirit of those relationships and what they mean to the characters are true to those in the book.
What was different for me was that the book made me more uneasy about Eleanor, and about how much of the book's horror is in her mind, or can be attributed to her poltergeist. If you've read Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, you'll be familiar with the disorientation of not ever really knowing what's going on, whether it's supernatural, a mental aberration, or a combination of the two. And that, more than anything makes The Haunting of Hill House one of the most unsettling things I've ever read.
It's gloriously well written; it gave me the wiggins in the first ten pages, and never really let up. But it's not throat-clutching horror, or jump-out-of-your-skin horror. Rather, it's a slow and even sad progress of the death of hope in the face of something overwhelming. The horror is that no matter the source, nothing can stop it.
I'm not a fan of gorpy horror, buckets of blood and body parts being flung about. Monsters don't scare me. People scare me. What goes on in people's heads scares the bejeebers out of me, so this sort of horror? It's my candy. And for my money, Shirley Jackson is one of the greatest horror writers ever.
Top reviews from other countries
I am no doubt going too far in invoking Alice by way of a comparison, but the parallel is not ridiculous. For pacing of the plot, for evocation of atmosphere, for vivid character drawing and for sheer fantasy that never loses its focus, the Haunting of Hill House is a little masterpiece. The plot line puts the films to shame, I think, above all in its firm and clear conclusion, a far cry from the sloppy efforts in the films. We need to be within sight of the end before we can really appreciate how the environment has gradually enfolded Eleanor in something like the way that the pack of cards built itself round Alice.
Whether this can be called a horror story or a gothic novel I very much doubt. It might be said to suggest Lovecraft to a certain extent. Lovecraft has talent without much self-discipline, but Shirley Jackson is firmly in control all the way through. Nor are the effects sickening, a characteristic I sadly associate with Steven King. There is no gore whatsoever, not even on the violent last page, and if I have to cite any kind of parallel along this other axis I might try M R James, although I doubt that he would have been capable of developing a story to anything like this extent. More realistically perhaps, this tale evokes an era, the era of F Marion Crawford, Mrs Oliphant, Mrs Belloc Lowndes and other sadly forgotten practitioners of a similar craft.
For all that, the atmosphere is chilling in the literary sense, a worthy concomitant to the ghastly chill evoked in the narration itself. It all held my attention without deviation, unless perhaps when the main outline of the story has become fully clear some 5-10 pages from the envoi. That may just have reflected impatience on my part, but even then I did not expect the final touch, perhaps recalling the hugely inferior efforts at that in the films.
If I have not made it clear that I recommend this book then I suppose that I have no gift for recommendation. Do read it if you have any taste for this sort of thing, and especially if your recollection is still taken up with the films.
The characters are so superbly written. Mr and Mrs Dudley unnerved me from the get go. Through them you just knew instantly that strange things were afoot at Hill House. This living, breathing building got to me the way it got to Dr. Montague, Luke, Theo and Eleanor and even though I predicted how the story was going to end, I found myself shocked nevertheless.
The Haunting of Hill House pulls you along in its own, addictive way. It's takes you on a journey. At times it is so fast that you want to slow down and other times, it puts the breaks on and you beg to go faster, but one thing is for sure, once it has you, you have no choice but to ride on until the very end.
Together with the layabout Luke Sanderson, heir in waiting to inherit the house, social butterfly and artistic free spirit Theodora, Eleanor feels both a sense of displacement and belonging with this sudden mismatched clique. Eleanor is a sorry character, who at 32, is something of a spinster with missed opportunities, having spent much of her years looking after her sick and abusive mother, who had just passed on recently. That is not a politically incorrect thing to say about her in the context of the period in which the book was written and set. We also pity her for her being valued much less than the car she shares with her sister and brother-in-law quite early on in the book when she asks to use the car to get to Hill House.
The writing is disturbingly disjointed - I am not sure if the dialogue and feelings conveyed by the characters were meant to feel so disconnected, but it did give me a sense of watching an old reel of black and white film on an ancient projector that flickers and jumps, distorting the flow of conversation and action in the text. Perhaps that was the horror I was supposed to feel. There was much potential at the start with all the ominous warnings and signs by the misanthropic caretaker and his wife, the Dudleys, that portents what could possibly happen when dusk came, but when it finally did, nothing much really happens besides some loud knocks and doors that just refuse to stay opened.
What a letdown.
We share some terrifying and confusing experiences with these four “investigators”. After dark, the house and grounds produce nightmarish knocking and visual hallucinations. Humour is provided by the demanding spiritualist wife of Doctor Montague, who strangely enough experiences none of the phenomena that rocks the sanity of the Doctor and his guests. It’s frightening at times and very clever indeed.