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The Haunting of Hill House (1959)

by Shirley Jackson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,935384918 (3.92)2 / 762
Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and self-closing doors, but Hill House is gathering its powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own.… (more)
  1. 210
    The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both have an unreliable narrator, which results in an ambiguous story.
  2. 120
    The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (alalba)
  3. 81
    The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (Copperskye, 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)
  4. 70
    White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (upstairsgirl, sturlington)
    upstairsgirl: Similar in premise, less subtle but more disturbing in execution.
    sturlington: Hill House clearly inspired White Is for Witching.
  5. 40
    The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan (blacksylph)
  6. 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.)
  7. 20
    The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons (andomck)
  8. 31
    Hell House by Richard Matheson (sturlington)
    sturlington: Inspired by The Haunting of Hill House.
  9. 20
    The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff (amyblue)
  10. 20
    Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix (andomck)
  11. 10
    Wild Fell by Michael Rowe (ShelfMonkey)
  12. 43
    House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (blacksylph)
    blacksylph: The only haunted house story I've ever read that was scarier than this book.
  13. 77
    Salem's Lot by Stephen King (clif_hiker)
  14. 11
    The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker (andomck)
    andomck: Both are haunted house stories at their core
  15. 78
    Carrie by Stephen King (artturnerjr, akblanchard)
    artturnerjr: Clearly influenced by The Haunting of Hill House, as is much of King's work.
    akblanchard: Carrie White has much in common with Jackson's shy, bullied heroine Eleanor Vance.
  16. 01
    The Supernaturals by David L. Golemon (Scottneumann)
  17. 45
    Danse Macabre by Stephen King (kraaivrouw)
    kraaivrouw: Look here for Stephen King's take on The Haunting of Hill House.
  18. 13
    Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephen Benatar (agmlll)
1950s (36)
Kayla (3)

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Showing 1-5 of 367 (next | show all)
i am never going to stop rereading this book. it's different every time; i see more every time; i see it differently every time; i love it just as much or more every time. so brilliant.

i tried to specifically pay attention to things like the time lapses, eleanor's psychology, and a few parts i wasn't sure i fully understood before. i came away thinking that the time can be followed more than i thought, although if you're not really tracking it, i'm not sure it wouldn't make you feel off-kilter, like the house itself. (it is rather hard to believe how much happens in the space of a week, which is all the time we have at hill house.)

i had a harder time than usual, at least through the second third of the book, feeling like eleanor could have been responsible for everything. it felt more like a haunting during that phase of the book, but before and after i felt like it all could have been her. (i usually want it to be all in her head, but i'm not sure that mrs montague's planchette works if it's in her head.)

i also continue to want so badly to hear more from theo, and this time to have read dr montague's paper on what they saw at hill house. but, i know, that knowing how accurate eleanor's narration is would ruin it, to some extent. i just so want to know.

i forget, somehow, how funny this book is in parts. by the time mrs montague comes it feels so late in the book, and her presence is such a comic relief after all the tension that has come before. it's such a stark contrast, and so perfect a reflection. i found, in this reading, more of an understanding of each character's feeling of belonging (or their attempt to capture that feeling) - even mrs montague. each of them, really, in their own way, belongs here more than anywhere else. this, to me, is more evidence of theo's queerness, which i know isn't always accepted as obvious, but that i think is.

good god i love this book so much. (5 stars)

from dec 2020: there are so few books that are, or approach, utter perfection, but this is absolutely one of them. and the passage introducing eleanor is still my all-time favorite introduction of a character in all of literature. i love this book so much.

even the things that feel like maybe, possibly mistakes (slight, of course), in retrospect aren't, and are even brilliant. (she barely overuses the word "concrete" when referring to eleanor's thoughts, but actually how fitting and perfect is that? as eleanor tries to ground herself in reality, in the tangible now, as opposed to the pull hill house is having on her; she is striving (or is she?) to remain concrete.)

i tried, this time, to read it slowly, to see things i hadn't seen before or that i didn't remember. it ended up, it looks like, being the fastest i read it (in terms of days) but i did manage to look at it a bit differently. the time confusion, for example. it's always bothered me a bit that the timing of everything has seemed not quite right. now i think that's intentional. that jackson can't have us really feel discomfort with the darkness and unpredictability of hill house. that we can't really feel the unsettling feeling of the off angles and the unexpected views and the never-knowing-where-you-are-in-the-house feeling that the characters feel. but we can feel uncomfortable in time. we can be unsure if we're 3 days in or is it 2 or 4? just slightly off - enough to not question her when theo says it was the day before yesterday. but it wasn't the day before yesterday. so we're a little unsteady, just as they are in hill house. with everything else being so perfect in this book, this has to be on purpose, and it works. it really works; i've always been uncomfortable with the timing of all of it, and this explains it (and yes, excuses it).

i really saw, this time, how the house is coming out of its wait at the same time as eleanor starts to come apart. the "which-is-it" question - is the house sentient and coming for or drawing in eleanor or is eleanor going crazy - that i always felt was expertly written to be either, i now see was expertly written to be both. they are concurrent happenings, and they play off each other. each time i read this, the house seems more alive and more active and more purposeful. but eleanor doesn't really feel less like she's breaking apart. the two together work perfectly together.

as much as i love this book, i forget how funny it is in places. her writing is so precise and yet not at all clinical. so good. so perfect. i already can't wait to read it again. i will be looking for a class to take on this book so i can really dive deep. i love it so much.

the same lines as always, always jumped out at me, but i also noticed some new ones this time. in particular i like what she's doing here, at our first introduction to the room eleanor is assigned:

"Perhaps someone had once hoped to lighten the air of the blue room in Hill House with a dainty wallpaper, not seeing how such a hope would evaporate in Hill House, leaving only the faintest hint of its existence like an almost inaudible echo of sobbing far away."

(5 stars)

from oct 2018:

truly, i love this book. jackson is an absolute master. of language, of plotting, of characterization (i mean, mein gott, the character of mrs montague is utter perfection), of everything important and everything minor in a book. even that first chapter, which i used to not love, is showing itself as brilliant as well.

one of my favorite passages in all of literature is the beginning of the second chapter, the whole of which perfectly (i mean *perfectly*) sets us up to be in eleanor's head for the rest of the book. oh, how i wish we got some of theo's perspective sometimes. (but i know that would negate everything jackson did. still, i'm so damn curious.) but because we live with eleanor for the book, that introduction chapter to her is everything it needs to be, it's amazing. in terms of getting to the haunted house part, the book takes a bit to get going (if that is why someone is reading it), but we are in this chapter with eleanor and it's simply one of the best written ways to give a reader a character study (and plant ideas and themes that we'll see come up again later) that i've ever seen.

there were a couple of things that seemed not quite right to me on this reading - that theodora could just leave her business for a couple of months, on a whim; that they didn't just leave the house after some of what they experienced; that jackson left off the story a few times to jump forward a few hours leaving things not quite settled and the time passage not quite clear at first - which made it not quite perfect. but all tiny things compared to the rest, which really is flawless.

i love the interplay between the house drawing eleanor in and eleanor's descent into madness. i love waffling between what is happening (is it a haunting? is eleanor imagining it? is theo being mean or not?) page to page. i love wondering about the interpretation that we're given, as it's coming from the one person we can't really rely on. i love that jackson makes it possible that it's all in eleanor's head, or it's all the house taking her. i love i love i love i love.

oh how i love this book. (5 stars)

from oct 2016:

if i liked the first 2.5 pages of this better i don't know what i'd have to complain about. and i liked them more this time than i did at my first reading, so maybe i'll come completely around to them at some point. because this is obviously a book i will be reading again and again. i wish i could take a graduate class just on this book, there is so much in here and so much to discuss; the depths you can find about each of the characters and the history is ... well, it's exciting.

my interpretation of the book is completely different than last time with this reading. i didn't find this too scary last time (except that amazing scene where eleanor thinks she's holding theo's hand in the night through the noise and the cold and then finds theo was sleeping all along) but this time, i found it scary pretty much from beginning to end. part of that is knowing what is coming and seeing so much foreshadowing throughout, but most of that is reading it differently. it's one of my favorite things about this book, that it can be read in different ways, and the interpretations can all be backed up by the text. so this time i read it less as eleanor going crazy, and much more as the house is alive and wanted her, drew her in, and drove her actions. which makes for a different story and a pretty scary read, even though i don't usually prefer this kind of tale. it's just so expertly done.

i still absolutely love the way she begins chapter 2: "Eleanor Vance was thirty-two years old when she came to Hill House. The only person in the world she genuinely hated, now that her mother was dead, was her sister. She disliked her brother-in-law and her five-year-old niece, and she had no friends. This was owing largely to the eleven years she had spent caring for her invalid mother, which had left her with some proficiency as a nurse and an inability to face strong sunlight without blinking." i think it will prove to be one of my favorite passages in literature.

this time i found it clear that theodora is a lesbian; it didn't feel much like subtext but actually out in the open. maybe it's reading this directly after the education of harriet hatfield when they called their partners their friends, but seeing "friend" in this book didn't make me wonder what she meant like it did last time. the reference to the alfred de musset book (i'm assuming the erotic lesbian one) i think is supposed to make that clear. not that it matters, i just found it differently obvious in this reading.

there is so much creepy foreshadowing that i either didn't notice before or just, i don't know, shrugged off. of course, it totally can be shrugged off, since this book can perfectly be read in a number of ways. but this time, maybe i wanted to read it as a haunted house story, or maybe something early on just nudged me in that direction. because i must have marked 25 places (before i gave up) where the house "watches" "waits" "settles" "sighs" "steadied" that don't necessarily mean the house is alive, per say. but it sure felt like it was aware and sentient in this reading. maybe that's also partly prep for rereading white is for witching, in which the house is most definitely a character in the book. (there's even a line in here - "The sense was that [the house] wanted to consume us, take us into itself, make us a part of the house, maybe" that, to me, foreshadows the oyeyemi book in its entirety.) while i'm talking other books, i'll also say that the way the nursery was described, the coldness and as "the heart of the house" reminded me also of the den of it, in stephen king's it. not that they were trying to destroy anything in this house, though.

this is just so good. is the force inside her? did it draw her there? is it her, herself? "Eleanor, racing to the pounding, which seemed inside her head as much as in the hall, ..." ... "how can these others hear the noise when it is coming from inside my head? I am disappearing inch by inch into this house..." is she going crazy? is the house making her crazy? was she already crazy? i even found myself, at one point, asking, is she even actually there?? i can't say enough how much i love how answering those questions differently gives a completely different reading of the book. it's just so brilliantly done. i already can't wait to read it again one day. (5 stars)

from oct 2014:

oh this book is so, so good. i didn't love the first 2.5 pages, but by midway through page 3, when she opens chapter 2 with - "Eleanor Vance was thirty-two years old when she came to Hill House. The only person in the world she genuinely hated, now that her mother was dead, was her sister. She disliked her brother-in-law and her five-year-old niece, and she had no friends. This was owing largely to the eleven years she had spent caring for her invalid mother, which had left her with some proficiency as a nurse and an inability to face strong sunlight without blinking." - i was all in.

it's not as scary (in the traditional sense) as i'd expected, but i think it's stronger for it as it's less about the supernatural manifestations in the house and more about the expectation of them that build in the group and with each of the people individually. is the house evil? is anything happening or is it in the occupant's heads? (does mrs. montague not experience any phenomena because there aren't any or because she's not a part of the group the house has chosen?) is theodora mean to eleanor or is that (also?) in eleanor's head? at what point does eleanor really start to go mad, and how much of the story is then called into question because it's told from her point of view? there are so many questions that come up reading this; it's the kind of book that makes you want to go back through and find clues and see how things shift based on how you might answer those questions.

i love the uncertainty that comes with reading this and i understand why it's cited as foundational for so many writers (like stephen king). and yet it reads like it could have been published the day i began reading it.

i can't do this book justice. it's just so good on so many levels. shirley jackson can write and i can't wait to read (and reread over and over again) everything she ever published. (5 stars) ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Sep 12, 2022 |
Was I alone in hoping she would kill Luke and the Montagues for being jerks towards her? Way to handle someone who's possessed, guys ,
Also, Nell and Theo 4 life. ( )
  Rob_Whaley | Sep 8, 2022 |
Tales about haunted houses are by now as common as major character deaths in Game of Thrones (sorry, couldn't resist that comment), but it seems like Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House belongs to those classic stories which caused the hype first of all. Shirley Jackson may be best known for her dystopian short story [b:The Lottery|6219656|The Lottery|Shirley Jackson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348757577s/6219656.jpg|15161007] which initially introduced me to her writing, but in the end, Hill House is what made her a commonly mentioned presence in the genre of classic horror stories. However, don't be led into the wrong direction here. There are no zombies strolling over streets, no vampires lurking in the dark, no monsters running behind desperated victims. There is only a mysterious house with secrets of its own, only some curious characters experiencing something they would not have expected. The true terror of the story is lurking behind the words, catching hold of your mind only when you are reading between the lines.

In The Haunting of Hill House four characters who could not have been more designed as caricatures seek to learn the truth behind this house: a peculiar professor, his lighthearted assistant, the future heir of the house and a fragile woman. Inexplicable incidents soon cause those characters to be confronted with difficult questions, and the course of the story might lead some of them into the deepest corners of their conscious minds. This sounds like an intriguing premise, but ultimately, the execution turned out to be not as intriguing. I have read quite a few other Shirley Jackson short stories, all of them quite slow-paced and narrated without directly involving the reader, but each of them still managed to stand out in their own right. The same happened with this novel - you don't find any real twists there, no moments of true, climatic horror. The only difference to her short stories was the characterisation. While this can't be directly minded in her shorter works, her missing talent at writing believable characters sticked out in this novel, and it bothered me throughout my entire reading experience. In a short story, it can be enough to have an engaging plot, but in a book, you have to accompany characters on their journey, and if the author fails at making you care about them, the journey can turn out to be uncomfortable and disappointing.

Shirley Jackson's writing style is unique and interesting, a style so different from other authors that in spite of the slow pace, it somehow manages to attract readers. But a good plot, an intriguing atmosphere and good writing are sometimes simply not enough. Someone should have taught Shirley Jackson how to create breathing, vivid characters before writing her novels. It is sad that she died way too young, at the age of 48 - she had a lot of potential for writing more powerful works and stories. Another book by her, [b:We Have Always Lived in the Castle|89724|We Have Always Lived in the Castle|Shirley Jackson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1415357189s/89724.jpg|847007], has become quite popular throughout the years, so I will probably give this one a chance as well.

It has almost been a year since I read this novel, but it still remains in my memory as if it was glued to my mind, so I feel like three stars are the perfect rating to this novel. Maybe my expectations were wrong or Shirley Jackson simply didn't exhaust all the possibilities with the potential of this story, but something always kept this from becoming an extraordinary work for me. ( )
  Councillor3004 | Sep 1, 2022 |
Really good traditional horror story where it's more about the insanity than some ghosts floating around an old house. Shirley Jackson must have been a genius with this Gothic horror genre because she describes old houses realistically when it comes to unusual sounds. Sometime you wonder if Hill House was a character, other times you wonder if it was all made up by Eleanor, or even if someone was actually possessed by a poltergeist. The ending made me sad and mad, not a Jackson, but at the characters ignorance that all haunted houses aren't the same story. ( )
  Jazz1987 | Aug 27, 2022 |
How can one even describe this book? It certainly had a creepy atmosphere, interesting characters and an hint of w|w.
The story revolves around Eleanor, who is invited by Dr. Montague to spend some days at Hill house in order to find evidence of a "haunting" in the place. There Eleanor also meets Theodora and Luke and starts to form a sort of friendship with them. At night the creepy occurrences begin and slowly start to frighten the characters more and more.
I really liked this story, but I can't help feeling like something was missing. I wish the ending was longer and I am still a bit confused. The text intentionally makes it unclear if something is really happening or if it's just the house influencing Eleanor. I don't really want it fully explained, but I wanted a bit more information than what I've got. Maybe it will be clearer on a reread. ( )
  elderlingfae | Aug 11, 2022 |
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» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jackson, Shirleyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Buckley, PaulCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dowers, ShonnaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dunne, BernadetteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edelfeldt, IngerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gervais, StephenIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
King, StephenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, LauraIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palmer, ÓscarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pareschi, MonicaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
PhotonicaCover photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warner, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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 in lovers meeting.
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. (chapter 1)
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. (chapter 1)
When they were silent for a moment the quiet weight of the house pressed down from all around them.
We have grown to trust blindly in our senses of balance and reason and I can see where the mind might fight wildly to preserve its own familiar stable patterns against all evidence that it was leaning sideways. (Dr. Montague, chapter 4)
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Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and self-closing doors, but Hill House is gathering its powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own.

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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.

AR 6.3, 11 pts
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