The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

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. Within, 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. 

So opens one of the greatest examples of horror fiction to ever be published: Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. This is the story of a cast of four characters from all walks of life who come together in the eponymous House to investigate possible supernatural disturbances. Little do they know, though, that Hill House refuses to be a passive subject in their study, choosing to fight back against what it perceives as an encroachment of its territory.

The narrator of this harrowing tale is Eleanor Vance, a woman who has spent her entire adult life taking care of her invalid mother. When the chance to escape her rootless existence appears, she jumps on it, but she finds that Hill House is perhaps more haunted than she cares to admit. As the novel progresses, the supernatural events begin to center around her, from mysterious writings on the wall to psychic communications. Eleanor, too, finds herself increasingly becoming out of touch with reality, merging with the House in a terrifyingly slippery slope with the consequence of one of the most shocking climax scenes in literary history.

Overall, The Haunting of Hill House is a brilliantly crafted example of horror fiction. While this genre isn’t usually my cup of tea, I appreciated Shirley Jackson’s masterful weaving of the plot and avoidance of the gore usually found in such books. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who needs a new read – so long as you remember to keep the light on.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

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