book reviews by Althea

The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson *****

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The Haunting of Hill House
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A re-read… but I believe I first read it 25, maybe even 30 years ago, so it fell into the category of ‘everything old is new again.’

Of course, this is the classic book the Shirley Jackson is most well known for, and a haunted house story which has set the benchmark for the genre.

A professor with an interest in the paranormal has heard rumors about Hill House – a remote mansion that’s been shut up for years, in the wake of a family tragedy. In order to properly investigate the reputed phenomena of the house, the professor advertises for assistants who are known to have been associated with unexplained events in the past. The ones who respond are two women: the dramatic Theodora, and the more timid or withdrawn Eleanor. The heir to the family who currently owns the house, Luke, makes it a foursome.

Although the house is undeniably unfashionable and unpleasant, regardless of the professor’s hopes, the general expectation is that the four will spend a few days playing cards and generally trying to stave off boredom. However, Eleanor is a more troubled person than is obvious to the casual observer. And there is something truly malefic in the house that responds to her presence with a dangerous synergy.

We see events through Eleanor’s perspective, and only gradually come to realize how profoundly that perspective is affected by her wildly vacillating moods and how unreliable she might be. By the time those around her realize what the reader is beginning to understand, it may be too late.

A masterwork of horror; highly recommended for all fans of both the psychological and paranormal aspects of the genre.

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