23 September 2009

The Haunting of Hill House

The imposing Victorian mansion Hill House is allegedly haunted. No one can stand to stay in Hill House for more than a few days before the eerie wailings and mysterious things that go bump in the night leave the residents wanting to flee. Dr. John Montague, a specialist in haunted houses, decides to investigate the truth behind Hill House. To this end, he recruits the home’s current heir, Luke Sanderson, and two women with previous paranormal experiences, the selfish, theatrical Theodora and the neurotic, repressed Eleanor, to help him study Hill House. At first, the four regard their expedition as a fun vacation, and then Hill House starts to live up to its reputation. Soon the intrepid ghost hunters have turned on each other and creepy happenings are afoot…

The Haunting of Hill House is a fun novel to read – it’s fast-paced and entertaining. What really stood out to me are the characters. They are so well-drawn. I thought author Shirley Jackson did an excellent job of sketching out her characters’ personalities and perfectly portraying their oh so realistic reactions to stressful situations. These characters’ suspicious, self-pitying sniping is a treat to read! The two characters I enjoyed most were Eleanor, the pathetic milquetoast middle-aged spinster, and Mrs. Montague, the self-assured, controlling wife of Dr. Montague. (I’m thinking that Jackson must have written these characters after encountering real-life versions of these people, especially the hideous Mrs. Montague.) But the most fascinating character is Hill House itself. The house takes center stage and becomes very much a character in its own right. As good as the characters are in this novel, the most important thing for a horror novel is whether or not it is, well, horrifying. Never fear! (Or rather, do fear): The Haunting of Hill House is genuinely scary! The haunting scenes are quite eerie and several passages absolutely sent chills up my spine.

My only problem with this novel, and it’s not a major one, is that, in true horror story fashion, the characters never seem to realize when they’re in imminent danger although a gerbil of moderate intelligence in the same situation would’ve already locked itself in its cage with a baseball bat and crash helmet. (Is stubborn stupidity a mandatory requirement for horror characters? Are they required to put that on a résumé ?) Jackson does manage to make her characters’ lack of common sense more plausible than many other writers, but it still irks me when I read about allegedly normal people of allegedly average intelligence shrugging off abnormal doings with a blithe shrug.

The Haunting of Hill House is a classic ghost story. I love Jackson’s classic horror short story ‘The Lottery” (an absolute must read!), so that’s why I decided to read this novel. The Haunting of Hill House is an entertaining and genuinely frightening read. Enjoy! (But don’t read this at night by yourself. I tried that and had to put it down until daylight!)


  1. This is a great review, and makes me want to read the novel. Good job, Zella!
    I have a suggestion for you. What if you put teasers at the end of your posts? Like 'Next Time; Zella Reviews Going Postal by Terry Pratchett'? Just an idea. :D

  2. Scott, thanks! It's really a good book. I hope you enjoy it! And I like your suggestion! (I'll try to start doing that! However, sometimes I don't know exactly what I am doing until Saturday or Sunday, so I might have to give you guys a teaser that says "Next Week, Zella reviews Wicked or The Red Badge of Courage or something by Thomas Hardy." I am doing one of those next week...I just am not sure which one!):D

    P.S. I am so looking forward to Going Postal! Someone has it checked out of the library (which caused me some distress yesterday at work), but I reserved it. At the same time though, I found out that my coworker is a HUGE Terry Prachett fan. Between what you told me and what she told me, I am not sure if I can wait for the book at the library. I am going to see if I can find it at my local bookstore!

    P.S. Thanks for mentioning my blog on SparkNotes. That was really sweet of you. (I also got a couple of recommendations out of it!)

  3. Awwwwwwwwww no problem, Zella. I thought people should know about it. I'm just glad I'll be able to say I was one of the first (three?) followers when you're a nationwide SparkNotes celebrity and your blog has millions of followers.
    Yes, we Pratchett fans are everywhere, hahaha...Yes, I am a huge Pratchett fan, so much so that i went to the first North American Convention for his books. :D
    Still can't wait till you read Going Postal! I will be looking forward to it!

    P.S. That would be really funny if you had a multiple choice teaser. Go for it!

  4. Scott, I appreciate your support! And don't forget: You were my very first follower, so in this theoretical celebrity situation, you would have real bragging rights!

    I am glad you like my multiple choice teaser. I was thinking that perhaps I should be more organized, but the multiple choice one is really indicative of how my thought processes function...or fail to function. I will start doing teasers of both the definite single and multiple choice variety (depending on my level of long range planning for the week)!

  5. Hmmm, I'll have to read this : ) I heard it mentioned on some website, then on sparknotes, then here, so it really must be good! Thanks for the review, and btw the multiple choice teaser is an awesome idea.

  6. Vodkachick54, It is a really good ghost story! I hope you like it! Let me know what you think of it! :)

    Thanks! I hope you guys like the multiple choice teasers. I was a bit ashamed of myself for being so absent minded, so I am glad you guys don't mind! :D

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