Shawn's Reviews > The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
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's review
May 05, 2009

it was amazing
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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02/01/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-24 of 24) (24 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...

message 11: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Vogel Great review. I loved the personification of the house. People just don't know what good writing is anymore. Everyone expects Hollywood-style scares. For me the psychological horror that Jackson masters here is far more satisfying.

Shawn Tis true, Alex. 40 years from now, HOHH will probably be easily dismissible as 20th Century, psychological, narrative fiction - which has no place in our Post-modern, no-one-is-real literature, despite being written before any of those trends - don't want to make the millenials feel insecure about ANYTHING!

message 13: by Medea (new)

Medea This comment has actually given me tears of laughter and was very eloquent. I also CANNOT believe the dearth of communication skills in society. Having read Ms. Jackson's short story collection, I am definitely reading this!

Shawn Glad to have caused laughter!

And yes, read this book! You will not regret it!

message 15: by D.L. (new)

D.L. Lewis Brilliant review, Shawn - absolutely perfect!

Shawn Thanks!

message 17: by Shan (new) - added it

Shan I had the same thought about who or what is being haunted. It's Beetlejuician - the living are doing the haunting.

Eleanor is the perfect narrator for this story. I was happy for her early on when she decided to "steal" her own car; sympathetic with her imagining another life for herself with oleander hedges and a cup of stars; and alternately annoyed and infuriated with her most of the rest of the book. Looking back with your review in mind though I can see it was the house (or its former occupants) mingled up with her that was annoying me. As you say, the ultimate unreliable narrator.

Excellent review of the perfect October read.

Shawn Thank you very much!

Tamela Like Great review of one of my all time favorites !

Shawn Thanks you!

message 21: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Thanks for this review - you convinced me to go ahead and read it

Shawn you won't be sorry!

Michael Shawn--I know it's been a while since you posted this, but I wanted to say: wonderful review of an amazing book.

Shawn Thank you! It seems to be my most popular review!

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