This story is a classic by one of the genre's old masters. Shirley Jackson's fiction often reflects a preoccupation with themes of alienation; in "The Haunting of Hill House", the shy, socially awkward protagonist Eleanor struggles with finding a place for herself, a home, somewhere to belong. In the past, she served as a caretaker for her sick and not-very-affectionate mother (another character, Luke, informs her with some pathos that he 'never had a mother,' and the reader is left to reflect ironically on Eleanor's mother and suspect that there are worse fates). After her mother's death, she lives with her contemptuous sister and brother-in-law who grudgingly allow her to live with them.
Eleanor's sojourn at Hill House is the great adventure of her life and her unspoken wish is to find somewhere (and someone) with whom to belong. Unfortunately, Eleanor finds herself among a motley lot of oblivious or self-centered characters. The only one who really seems to want her is Hill House itself...
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
I really wanted to like this story. I enjoy a good ghost story that is more on the psychologically spooky side (as opposed to the slasher, gory side), and thought this would fit the bill nicely. But the handling of the characters consistently got in the way of the atmosphere. The problems:
• None of the subjects participating in this expedition to the haunted house seemed to be serious about actually trying to discover its secrets. They moved in, experienced the strange phenomena, but afterwards never even discussed among themselves what had happened or even seemed terribly surprised or concerned. We were told they wrote copious notes, but they never seemed to go anywhere.
• The too-clever, ironic conversations felt contrived and out of place. Perhaps the wry humor was meant to be a sort of whistling-in-the-dark, but it didn't work for me.
• The crazy bangings and door slammings, voices and wall writings are all sensory events that are difficult to convey in writing with the impact they deserve. Perhaps the impact would have been heightened if the characters themselves had seemed to be more viscerally affected. But they all just got over it a few minutes later, looked for the brandy and made more jokes. I have seen the 1963 film version, and found it satisfyingly spooky, largely because the actors were able to convince me that they were scared themselves.
• I found Dr. Montague’s wife to be one of the single most irritating characters I have ever read. Worse, her nearly comical militant spiritualist crusade further weakened Dr. Montague’s already weak character, undermining any pretense of scientific authority he held.
I wish I could recommend this classic, but for me it did not live up to its billing.
The narration was done very well.
I couldn't get through it fast enough. Very little haunting, a lot of inner dialogue from a disturbed woman apparently sensitive to the house....
Phat Girl Slim
I wish I had expanded the reviews rather than rely on the first few that were shown. It is one of the worst books I've ever listened to. The narrator is excellent, but the story is pretty awful. There was NOTHING scary about this book. The story was painfully slow to unfold. When the people finally got to the haunted house, I kept waiting for the scary stuff to begin. It never did. There were literally no scary parts of this book. I finished it out of curiosity. I had to know why so many people loved this audiobook. The characters are irritating and silly.
After reading We have Always Lived in the Castle I thought it was high time I read other books by Shirley Jackson since I enjoyed that one so much. Well I must admit to not liking any of them as much as I enjoyed that one.
I know the publication of this one came long, long before Rose Red by, Stephen King but there were so many similarities that it kept taking me out of the book.
I guess maybe I expected so much more from this book than I got. There were parts that were ok but for the most part it fell flat all the other characters other than Eleanor were very one dimensional and I honestly didn’t give a hoot about any of them just when I started to care about Theodora she turned into a shrew. And as Eleanor slowly fell victim to the house (or her own mind?) it was like no one cared until it was too late then the unceremonious eviction from the house it just seemed so rushed none of them really wanted to help her they just wanted her gone and well they got their wish.
I’ll be honest I used to read a lot of horror when I was younger (Koontz,Saul,King) but haven’t read any in a long time and maybe that was half my problem I think the other half was the similarities to King as Rose Red is a movie I watch every time it’s on.
So for me this book was just ok.
I listened to this on audio and must say that the narration by, Bernadette Dunne was top class and I will seek out more by this narrator.
An old fashioned haunted house story. No actual sightings, just a pervasive sense of disquiet and unease, unexplained sounds, and gradual personality changes. Well read narration, but the story is slow by current standards.
1) More interesting, realistic, three-dimensional characters. 2) An engrossing, thrilling plot that builds and maintains momentum.
If this was her best work, no. If Jackson has more appealing books out there, maybe.
The narrator, Bernadette Dunne, was very good. It was the material that kept her performance from being great.
All four main characters. Eleanor, whose thoughts provide the bulk of the story, is whiny, wimpy, needy, back-biting and basically borderline nuts before she arrives at Hill House. Theodora vacillates from high to Iow moods and back so fast that my head was spinning from my efforts to keep up. Luke, apparent heir to the house, is bland and two-dimensional. Luke seems to exist only to provide not particularly clever quips and also to serve as an uninspiring potential love interest for the ladies. The professor is one big stereotype: jolly yet thoughtful, smart yet weirdly enslaved by his obsession with the occult. The creepy housekeeper and her grumpy groundsman husband have more going for them than the main characters. I was so bored and annoyed by the lack of progress in the plot and disliked the characters so much that I quit listening halfway through. Consequently, I missed reading about the professor's wife who, according to other reviewers, was a truly obnoxious character. Looks like I gave up on this book just in time.
All I can say is, thank goodness for Audible's return policy.
Bernadette Dunne is a great reader. She doesn't overdo character voices, but creates subtly different characterizations. She captures the slow-burning menace of the story really well. I've listened to a bunch of her audiobooks and am never disappointed.
I am an artist and I love to listen to books while I work. Books have always been an important part of my life. Audible Rocks!
This classic haunted house book stands the test of time. the characters are engaging and the house is sinister. I have to admit I would love to visit it. The housekeeper is suitablely deadpan and strange. " there is no one to come if you call in the night after dark.''
Visit Hill House and get the shivers again. "Whatever walks there walks alone!"
I'm glad I finally got around to reading THOHH. The book is well-written (although the author's reliance on adverbs in dialogue attribution) and for the most part engaging, although it began to drag heavily toward the end.
Also, the novel is a half-century old, but somehow feels much older. Jackson's writing style does not feel particularly dated, but the dialogue and situations do.
The novel feels overlong and ultimately underwhelming, but Jackson's skillful writing and Bernadette Dunne's narration make it a worthwhile experience.