Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

I feel in love with Shirley Jackson’s style of writing way back in American Literature in high school when I first read her short story, “The Lottery.”  It is still one of the most perfect stories I have ever read.  The Haunting of Hill House has been on my “to read” pile since I was in high school.  Being a part of the Classics Club finally got me to pull this book off the “to read” pile and read it for this Halloween.

Dr. Montague decides to investigate Hill House, a notorious haunted house, by going to stay there.  He invites Eleanor Vance and Theodora as they have booth have previous paranormal experiences.  Luke Sanderson is a nephew of the current owner and goes along to represent the family.  Each has their own reason for being at the house and what starts as a lark soon turns into a living nightmare.  What possess Hill House and will they be able to escape? 

I enjoyed my edition of The Haunting of Hill House which is part of the Penguin Horror collection and included an introduction by Guillermo Del Toro about the horror series as well as an introduction of this specific book by Laura Miller.  I skipped both introductions to read the story on its own merit, but returned to them after I finished the book.  They are both worth a read.

I don’t want to get too much into the plot as I don’t want to ruin the story for others, but the writing was fabulous from the memorable start to thrilling conclusion.  I loved both the first quote and last quote and many in between as seen below.  I also love how it is not bloody gross horror, but suspenseful horror.  The horror of a house that doesn’t seem quite right, but slowly takes over the minds of those who inhabit it.  I love that it is a Victorian house that smothers the occupants with its clutter and unsymmetrical design.  I thought Eleanor was a fascinating character and I liked her journey through the novel.

My favorite quotes:

“Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more.”

“The light changed; she turned onto the highway and was free of the city.  No one, she thought, can catch me now; they don’t even know which way I’m going.”

“No human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of the line and place which suggest evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows, and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice.”

“Naturally I hope that we will all know a good deal more about Hill House before we leave.  No one knows, even, why some houses are called haunted.”

“It watches.  The house.  It watches every move you make.”

“She might have cried if she could have thought of any way of telling them why; instead, she smiled brokenly up at the house, looking at her own window, at the amused, certain face of the house, watching her quietly. The house was waiting now . . .  and it was waiting for her; no one else could satisfy it.”

“Within, its walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

Overall, The Haunting of Hill House was a perfect Halloween read; suspenseful with great characters including an unforgettable house.

Book Source:  I purchased this book from Amazon.com


  1. The author is new to me and so is the story. I'll be looking out for this one. Thanks for the review.

  2. Laura, I'm glad you enjoyed this so much. The quotations are terrific--I especially like that the house "watches". I will keep this author in mind due to your strong recommendation.

  3. Laura, I've heard of this book before so was intrigued to see it as one of your reviewed books... also, I didn't know that it was *that* Shirley Jackson who wrote "The Lottery." You've got me interested! Thanks for the review!