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The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin…

The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Classics) (original 1959; edition 2006)

by Shirley Jackson, Laura Miller (Introduction)

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3,5111731,510 (4)489
Title:The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Shirley Jackson
Other authors:Laura Miller (Introduction)
Info:Penguin Classics (2006), Edition: Revised, Paperback, 208 pages
Collections:read 2012, read via public library
Tags:Fiction, horror

Work details

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)

  1. 160
    The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both have an unreliable narrator, which results in an ambiguous story.
  2. 90
    The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (alalba)
  3. 60
    White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (upstairsgirl)
    upstairsgirl: Similar in premise, less subtle but more disturbing in execution.
  4. 61
    The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill (coppers, Jannes)
    Jannes: Not sure if it is a coincidence, but the two perhaps best ghost stories ever written are both by women, in a genre otherwise mostly dominated by men. Both are superb explorations of death, loss, fear, and all those other elementsthat make up the good supernatural tales.… (more)
  5. 41
    House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (blacksylph)
    blacksylph: The only haunted house story I've ever read that was scarier than this book.
  6. 30
    The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan (blacksylph)
  7. 41
    Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories by Roald Dahl (SomeGuyInVirginia)
    SomeGuyInVirginia: Dahl's is the best collection of ghost stories available, and Jackson's is the best haunted house story of all time. I think they make a nice pair (as the bishop said to the chorus girl.)
  8. 31
    The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons (sturlington)
  9. 20
    Hell House by Richard Matheson (sturlington)
  10. 10
    The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff (amyblue)
  11. 00
    The Supernaturals by David L. Golemon (Scottneumann)
  12. 66
    Salem's Lot by Stephen King (clif_hiker)
  13. 11
    Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar (agmlll)
  14. 56
    Carrie by Stephen King (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: Clearly influenced by The Haunting of Hill House, as is much of King's work.
  15. 35
    Danse macabre by Stephen King (kraaivrouw)
    kraaivrouw: Look here for Stephen King's take on The Haunting of Hill House.

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Showing 1-5 of 170 (next | show all)
There is a real charm to this 1959 spooky psychological tale of horror. Hill House has a sad family history and it is very oddly built. A Dr. Montague wants to investigate it, since that is what he likes to do. He invites quite a few people to come stay at Hill House, which he has rented. Some respond. Even fewer show up. In fact, other than a nephew of the owner, only two young women show up. The scary stuff is fairly mild, but enough to creep you out if you are so inclined. Elements of the story will seem rather familiar to a modern audience. Since this is the early somewhat seminal stuff I don't think it can be a cliché - rather it is the prototype that inspired many imitators I would bet. The attention to small details in this is really rather superb and sets the story up nicely and continues to reward the reader. The characters are done very well, especially the two central women of the story Eleanor and Theodora. The nephew of the owner of the house, Luke, is a lesser but still important character.

Eleanor Vance is seriously in need of an adventure, an escape from the real world that she has been dealing with, and a selfish domineering older sister and brother-in-law who you want to give a good slap to, even if they are well meaning in some ways. Eleanor rebels and responding to a call that both attracts and repels, she journeys to Hill House. She wants to run away when she arrives, and yet something keeps her there. We listen in on Eleanor's internal dialogue and after a bit I began to think she was at least a little unbalanced or crazy, or at least a little warped and lacking in self esteem. She's breaking out of her old bubble coming to Hill House, and that should be a good thing. It isn't though as she seems destined to be possessed in a way by the evil presence of the house. Theodora is less well known to us. She seems a bit of a free spirit, flighty, prone to mood changes, and yet she and Eleanor bond when first meeting.

If one has an inkling for an old-fashioned but very well done haunted house story I can certainly recommend this. Not a long novel but I read it slow to take it all in. My internal "sense of justice" meter didn't like the ending, but it was effective. Who says a haunted house plays fair? I knew this was made into a movie long ago but didn't realize until I was half done that this is also the story for the 1999 film starring Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luke Wilson, which explains why I kept having this vague feeling I had read the book before. The story was familiar from watching the movie on Netflix last year. duh. ( )
  RBeffa | Jun 30, 2015 |
I feel as though I've missed something. I didn't find this book scary, just rather creepy. To me, it wasn't about the oddly-built Hill House, or the ghosts who allegedly haunt it. Rather, it was about the severe psychological issues of a woman named Eleanor, who brought her problems with her to the decrepit, isolated mansion. She probably would have suffered a nervous collapse with or without Hill House or Dr. Montigue's ghost-hunting expedition. ( )
1 vote akblanchard | Jun 27, 2015 |
I actually started reading this audiobook way back in September for the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge. It’s only 7.5 hours long, so I thought it’d be a quick read. I think the fact that it wasn’t demonstrates quite well how not drawn into the story I was. This is a classic haunted house tale that perhaps might not work for the modern reader, depending on how much horror they generally imbibe.

This is going to be a quick review because I honestly don’t have too much to say about the book. Four people arrive at a house. Things appear normal, except one of them, Eleanor, clearly is a bit more emotionally unstable than the rest. She is, for instance, shocked that anyone is interested in her or asks her questions. She also has trouble with her own identity, such as knowing for sure what she likes to eat. Odd things start to happen in the house, and because Eleanor is odd, the others aren’t sure if it’s the house doing them or Eleanor herself. Eleanor becomes overly attached to Theodora. Drama ensues.

None of the house horror scenes really got to me, because frankly I’ve seen worse in plenty of other horror I read. I do love the genre. The parts that actually disturbed me were when the others in the household were inexplicably cruel to Eleanor. That dynamic of an odd woman randomly tossed in with strangers who proceed to be mean to her in a highschoolish way held my interest more than the house did. People and their cruelty are so much more frightening than a haunted house. I understand that the book is sort of leaving it up to the reader to wonder if the house or the people really drive Eleanor crazy, but frankly I think the ending removes all question on this point.

Similarly, there are definitely some undertones in the Theodora/Eleanor relationship that indicates they might possibly have had a fling early on and then Theodora abruptly distances herself from Eleanor when she gets too clingy. None of this is said outright, however it is heavily implied that Theodora’s roommate back home is her lover who she had a quarrel with, and she and Eleanor establish a close bond early on in the book. The problem is this all stays subtext and is never brought out in the open of the book. I get it that this book was published in 1959 so it probably had to stay subtext and was most likely shocking to a reader in the 50s. But to me, a modern reader, it felt like the book kept almost getting interesting and then backing off from it. The combination of the former issue and this one meant that I was left feeling unengaged and uninterested. Basically, I feel that the book didn’t go quite far enough to be shocking, horrifying, or titillating.

The audiobook narration by Bernadette Dunne was excellent as always, and the main reason I kept listening rather than just picking up a copy of the book and speed reading it. I love listening to her voice.

Overall, this classic was boundary pushing when it was first published but it might not come across that way to a modern reader. Readers who read a lot of modern horror might find this book a bit too tame for their tastes. Those interested in the early works of the genre will still enjoy the read, as will modern readers looking for horror lite. Readers looking for the rumored GLBTQ content in this book will most likely be disappointed by the subtlety of it, although those interested in early representation in literature will still find it interesting.

Check out my full review. ( )
  gaialover | Jan 9, 2015 |
I can safely say that "The Haunting of Hill House" is the most terrifying book I have ever read. This book gave me nightmares. I read it for the first time when it was newly published, when I was just entering my teens. At the time I sort of identified with Eleanor in a strange way. Eleanor herself seemed as awkward and uncomfortable in her own skin as a girl on the verge of puberty. I felt a bizarre camaraderie. Though in reality she was much more vulnerable and easily led.

That Hill House possessed her is an understatement. It enveloped her; it had been waiting for her. And that was what was so terrifying. Up until that point I had had no concept of such horror. This book opened a door to a whole new genre, a whole new world, one that I am still reveling in some fifty-odd years later.

Thank you, Shirley Jackson, I owe you one! ( )
1 vote Starwriter1109 | Jan 8, 2015 |
For my Spooky Reads month.

Some seriously creepy moments but wasn't piss-my-pants-scary (i.e. when you're too frightened to get up to use the bathroom; if you're not reading ghost stories or horror novels past midnight, you're doing it wrong.) Jackson is SUCH a good writer-- the pacing is beautifully done. Some of the scares border on cliche, and the second half feels like a different animal than the first half (where everyone's lolling around in the sun, picking strawberries and talking about having picnics). Even when dealing with such terrifying events as blood spontaneously appearing on walls, someone is bound to make a snarky, Wildean remark (which I totally appreciate since this is also my way of dealing with horror movies, much to the dismay of my friends whose response to my babbling is usually something along the lines of "megan, shut the fuck up"). ( )
  megantron | Jan 2, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 170 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shirley Jacksonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dunne, BernadetteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edelfeldt, IngerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
King, StephenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, LauraIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. 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.
Journeys end when lovers meet.
She could not remember ever being truly happy in her adult life; her years with her mother had been built up devotedly around small guilts and small reproaches, constant weariness, and unending despair. Without ever wanting to become reserved and shy, she had spent so long alone, with no one to love, that it was difficult for her to talk, even casually, to another person without self-consciousness and an awkward inability to find words.
The house was vile. She shivered and thought, the words coming freely into her mind, Hill House is vile, it is diseased; get away from here at once.
When they were silent for a moment the quiet weight of the house pressed down from all around them.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Hill House is an eighty year-old mansion built by a man named Hugh Crain. The story concerns four main characters: Dr. John Montague, an investigator of the supernatural; two young women, Eleanor and Theodora; and a young man, Luke, the heir to Hill House, who is host to the others. Doctor Montague hopes to find scientific evidence of the existence of the supernatural. He rents Hill House for a summer and invites several people to stay there as his guests. Of these invitees, whom he has chosen because at one time or another they have all experienced paranormal events, only Eleanor and Theodora accept.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143039989, Paperback)

Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has unnerved readers since its original publication in 1959. A tale of subtle, psychological terror, it has earned its place as one of the significant haunted house stories of the ages.

Eleanor Vance has always been a loner--shy, vulnerable, and bitterly resentful of the 11 years she lost while nursing her dying mother. "She had spent so long alone, with no one to love, that it was difficult for her to talk, even casually, to another person without self-consciousness and an awkward inability to find words." Eleanor has always sensed that one day something big would happen, and one day it does. She receives an unusual invitation from Dr. John Montague, a man fascinated by "supernatural manifestations." He organizes a ghost watch, inviting people who have been touched by otherworldly events. A paranormal incident from Eleanor's childhood qualifies her to be a part of Montague's bizarre study--along with headstrong Theodora, his assistant, and Luke, a well-to-do aristocrat. They meet at Hill House--a notorious estate in New England.

Hill House is a foreboding structure of towers, buttresses, Gothic spires, gargoyles, strange angles, and rooms within rooms--a place "without kindness, never meant to be lived in...."

Although Eleanor's initial reaction is to flee, the house has a mesmerizing effect, and she begins to feel a strange kind of bliss that entices her to stay. Eleanor is a magnet for the supernatural--she hears deathly wails, feels terrible chills, and sees ghostly apparitions. Once again she feels isolated and alone--neither Theo nor Luke attract so much eerie company. But the physical horror of Hill House is always subtle; more disturbing is the emotional torment Eleanor endures. Intense, literary, and harrowing, The Haunting of Hill House belongs in the same dark league as Henry James's classic ghost story, The Turn of the Screw. --Naomi Gesinger

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:04 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The four visitors at Hill House-- some there for knowledge, others for adventure-- are unaware that the old mansion will soon choose one of them to make its own.

(summary from another edition)

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