R.I.P. IX Readalong: THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson

Publisher: Penguin Classics
Released: January 1959
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★★

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.

The R.I.P. IX group read of THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is hosted by The Estella Society.

I’ve wanted to try Shirley Jackson’s work for a long time, and now I have! THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is billed as a horror classic, though in my opinion, it was eerie but not scary. After finishing the book, I’m left with several questions without definite answers, like who (or what) exactly was doing the haunting — the house itself, the doctor and his test subjects, or something else? Was anything supernatural actually going on, or were the unexplained events a figment of an unreliable narrator’s imagination? I have my own theory, but I won’t share because of spoilers.

THOHH is a well-crafted psychological thriller that makes readers decide for themselves what went down at Hill House. I enjoyed Ms. Jackson’s straight-forward writing style, and how she was able to make something as innocuous as a cold spot on the floor downright spooky. The characters were okay. They all irritated me to some degree, and I also thought that the dialogue between characters could get pretty unrealistic and silly, like “Oh, Nell, my Nellie!” or some such. The character I liked the most was the housekeeper, Mrs. Dudley. I loved her totally weird ways.

Overall, I enjoyed reading THOHH, and I can see why the book has been a big influence on the horror genre since its publication in 1959.