The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre. 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.
I loved the Netflix adaptation of “The Haunting of Hill House” so wanted to give the book a try. Once I got started I was surprised to find that the stories have very little in common! As I had enjoyed the series so much, I initially found myself criticising the book for this, but once I got into it, this little horror story became an enjoyable read.
For a horror story, it’s not that scary. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that I wasn’t scared at all. I imagine, however, that in 1959, when this book was published, Shirley Jackson shocked her readers with this creepy house on the hill.
In this story, a doctor of psychiatry, Dr Montague, chooses three young adults to spend time with him at an old mansion. Eleanor, Theodora and Luke are there to help the doctor investigate the stories of hauntings at the house. The atmosphere was well built and it was easy to feel immersed in the story.
Eleanor has to be one of my favourite characters in a long time. When we first meet her she’s dealing with the death of her mother after caring for her for so long, and she couldn’t be happier. She’s lonely, naive, fragile and damaged but can’t wait for her first taste of freedom.
As the four new residents settle in, Hill House begins to show signs of it’s supernatural reputation. The whole story had a quaint Agatha Christie feel to it. There’s no chainsaw wielding murderer but there are some banging doors and a whole load of talking.
I don’t often say this, but I have to admit that I preferred the adaptation! That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book though, I did, just not as much as I had expected to. This is a quaint, cozy classic that I’m really glad I read.
Overall rating: “The Haunting of Hill House” wasn’t as scary as I had expected and the story wasn’t what I was expecting either! That said, I really enjoyed this classic horror. It’s well written and the protagonist is one of my favourite characters in a long time – 4 stars!
See my other reviews of books by Shirley Jackson here: