Shawn's Reviews > The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
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Jun 01, 09

bookshelves: read-horror-and-supernatural, read-lit
Read in May, 2009

Why rehash what the 5 star reviewers say below? Why even engage the lame arguments by the people who didn't enjoy the book (weak ending? unrealistic dialogue!? not enough happens!?! Christ, people, have an imagination! - although I will say this, they don't seem to be teaching kids what an "unreliable narrator" is in school nowadays, as this book is all about Eleanor's weak and self-centered take on her surroundings and how that slowly gets worked over by Hill House - so an unreliable narration subsumed by an even less reliable narration)

Needless to say, if you like subtle, amazing writing (an ending that, if you have any kind of human feelings, should tear your heart out); if you like well-drawn characters who are of their times and psychologically complicated (yes, educated people did actually talk wittily to each other in days of yore - it was called the art of conversation - now go tweet someone about that awful egg McMuffin[tm:] you just ate) and astonishing well-controlled pacing and suspense (what was chasing them on the black, black path with the white, white trees? I'm sure happy I wasn't told, as not knowing was much more effective) then just pick up a copy of this, one of the finest supernatural novels ever written, lock the house, light a candle and relax. And PAY ATTENTION, because every detail is important. And don't trust the narrator, because she can't trust herself.

This isn't a typical, structured review for me - THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is too well known to tread the ground with a plot synopsis. I will add this little idea that came to me (and which I posted on over in the Horror boards):

Since the house seems to not be "haunted" by a spirit, in a traditional "haunted house" way (it certainly doesn't seem to be manifesting something/someone specific), because it seems to be an entity unto itself ("Hill House, Hill House, Hill House" mocks Theo in a wonderfully subtle scene that proves her telepathy) and because of some comments made by Eleanor late in the book, when, nearly gone and identifying wholly with the house and not her friends, she refers to their "clumsy, heavy, roughness" - I started to wonder if the answer to the question "what haunts Hill House?" isn't maybe - Dr. Montague and his team of psychics! Hill House seems to be an entity unto itself and maybe it is irritated and pained by these weak, sensitive, emotional creatures infesting it and wants them out of the picture so it can continue to walk alone.

An amazing book by an amazing writer. Respect it as much as Shirley Jackson respects you, the reader.
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Shiny Elizabeth Love the last line. She does respect the reader. Doesn't try to insult our intelligence . Thats what makes her perfect.


Williwaw Awesome review, Shawn! Makes me want to read this book again.


Shawn Many thanks to both of you for your kind words!


message 4: by Sam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam Bennardo Great review Shawn. Too many people have no imagination, no patience, & can't enjoy anything unless it is 100 ‰ spelled out for them today.


Shawn Thanks Sam. It's an amazing book, but likely to suffer the brickbats of the lazy as we transition from the text era into the image era!


Taylor Ooh, love the idea of the visitors as the haunting entity!


Connie Loved your review!!


Shawn Thank you!


Kyle I honestly could not have reviewed The Haunting of Hill House any better myself! The brilliance of this book is the very psychological thrill ride that Jackson puts her readers on. As soon as I finished the last page I set the book down and couldn't help but say, "Wow." A perfect read for the weeks leading up to All Hallows' Eve :)


Shawn Thanks for the compliment on the review! Yes, it's a classic for a reason, despite what some may think...


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