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....
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.
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.
Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane. Reviewer at BiblioSanctum.
I wouldn't recommend it to all my friends, but to the ones who like horror, I would highly recommend it. Since it's such a source of inspiration for many horror writers, it would be such a disservice as a horror fan not to experience this book. It's a deliciously poetic gothic horror that haunts the thoughts. No pun intended.
There were so many, but I'd hate to give away the surprises. I'd say the ending was perhaps one of my favorites because it leaves readers with such a sense of "What the hell happened?"
Her raspy reading voice helped to accentuate the creepiness of the story, but she did an excellent job creating voices and personality for the characters through her voice as well. I don’t think this would have been quite as enjoyable without her narration of the story. I loved hearing her Mrs. Dudley, who was probably the most terrifying and the funniest person in the book for me.
"No one can hear you scream, in the night, in the dark."
This is a ghost story, but it manages to be more than just a story that’s told around the camp fires. Jackson brought a psychological angle that makes the reader question if these things are really happening to this bunch or if it is some unexplainable shared delusion. The Haunting of Hill House is a tense story that seems to ask if the house is truly haunted or could these things have happened because the group believed in them. Would they have been faced with this same terror if they hadn’t had certain expectations about what to expect or is the house truly some primordial evil waiting and watching for victims? It’s almost as if the story is asking the reader, “What do you think… in the night… in the dark?”
Shirley Jackson did not invent the "Let's spend the night in a haunted house" trope, but she owned it with this book. Arguably, her disciples Richard Matheson and Stephen King even improved on it, but The Haunting of Hill House is a study in how to generate understated shivers without gore or violence. (Okay, there is a bit of gore, but it's phantasmal... right?)
The story opens with a straightforward expository introduction to Dr. Montague, who wants to spend the night in an 80-year-old house reputed to be haunted and shunned by the locals. It has the usual haunted house history - the builder was cracked, bad things happened, and everyone who's moved in since has left immediately. Dr. Montague hires two people with a history of paranormal encounters to stay with him, on the theory that people who've had weird things happen before are more likely to cause weird things to happen in a haunted house. The owners of the house also insist on sending their worthless heir to join the party.
It's thin as pretexts to throw a bunch of strangers together in a haunted house go, but it works as well as most horror story setups. The plot itself is no more than the summary - this group hangs out in a creepy old house, and creepy things happen creepily. But Jackson really created characters. Dr. Montague is fussy, stuffy, and (when his wife shows up later in the book), completely henpecked and almost pathetic. Eleanor, the protagonist if this book has one, is a meek young woman used to being pushed around and disregarded. She shows up at Hill House because she figures anything has to be better than her life with her sister and brother-in-law. Theodora is a brassy, sarcastic single girl who occupies the "slut" slot reserved for every horror movie, though on the page she doesn't do much more than flirt with bad boy Luke (though more is certainly implied). There is also the dour local woman hired as housekeeper, and then Dr. Montague's domineering, insufferable planchette-reading wife, who really livens things up when she arrives, and her driver Anthony.
But the main character, of course, is Hill House.
Hill House has bumps and shivers and shadows and cold spots and closing doors and whispering voices and all the other special effects of any self-respecting haunted house, but naturally the real horror comes from the effect it has on its victims. One member of our group of house-sitters proves to be most susceptible to its blandishments. I shan't spoil, though it's pretty obvious almost immediately who's not going to leave Hill House.
This is a ghost story rather than a horror story; for connoisseurs of haunted house stories I wouldn't even say it's necessarily the best. But it is a classic whose influence can be felt in every haunted house story and movie ever made since, and Shirley Jackson does a lot with a little; definitely a must-read on a dark October night.
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.