Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Haunting of Hill House [book review]


The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Published by Penguin Classics on October 3, 2013 (originally 1959)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.89 (as of 2018-11-07)
content warnings: gaslighting, suicide

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre. First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting;’ Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Nothing is ever really wasted, she believed sensibly, even one’s childhood, and then each year, one summer morning, the warm wind would come down the city street where she walked and she would be touched with the little cold thought: I have let more time go by.

Hi all!! I’m trying a new review layout that I feel really helps me organize my thoughts better. Let me know how you like it. 🙂

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Characters

Our main character, Nell, gave me a lot of mixed feelings. At times I adored her and at times I found her unbelievably annoying. The rest of the characters I disliked even more. I didn’t understand the motivations of most of them, and I found their sudden changes in mood and demeanor off-putting. I can see the purpose of this: to wonder whether it was all in Nell’s head, whether it was caused by the house, and/or whether these people were truly acting like this. The problem was, I found it so distracting and confusing that it detracted from the atmosphere of the novel for me. I was, quite frankly, annoyed by most of the characters.

→ What I Liked:

The Writing
While I had issues along the way, the fact remains that Shirley Jackson is an incredible author. She is just fantastic at atmospheric writing (although as noted above, the characters ruined some of that for me) and knows how to add in twists that you won’t expect, even if her books aren’t outright scary. In fact, the ending saved this book entirely for me. It was a solid 3-star read until the last bit, which had me on the edge of my seat. That ending cemented Nell as a solid character in my mind and I really felt what she was feeling.

→ Additional Thoughts:

I was quickly convinced that this book was a huge inspiration for House of Leaves, one of my favorite books. From the general aura of the house, to the scientific exploration of the unnatural, to the strange dimensions, this had an HoL vibe through and through. In fact, I’m sure in the months to come, I’ll be noting a lot of books and movies that are influenced by Jackson, as she has clearly made a mark on literature with her writing.

→ TL;DR:

  • I found the characters somewhat annoying
  • Spooky vibes, but not really scary
  • Shirley Jackson is a god-tier writer
  • The ending is SO GOOD
  • Definitely helped inspire House of Leaves
  • Recommend!

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

7 thoughts on “The Haunting of Hill House [book review]”

  1. I had a similar reaction to the characters. They were annoying at best, which was a pity because, like you said, the atmosphere of the book was so spooky that it would have been a much better book if the characters had been more compelling.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Will have to go back and give it another look. I was not too impressed with it, especially seeing how much of an impact it has on the genre; but I’ll have to go back and give it another look to see if I can see the same House of Leaves influences since HOL is IMO a masterpiece without equal. Great review.

    Liked by 1 person

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