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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Visitors may bring their own madness
Doctor Montague has a passion for studying the paranormal and hopes his doctorate in philosophy and degree in anthropology will lend his work in this area an air of respectability. He has rented a haunted house for the summer and, from his list of possibly psychically turned-on individuals, he has selected the most promising candidates and invited them to join him there...
Published on 6 July 2005 by Sally-Anne

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Haunting of Hill House
Dr Montague has decided to investigate the historic happenings of Hill House. He invites assistants to help with the work; Eleanor who has spent years resenting her family and now seeks her own freedom; Theodora who appears to have taste for nothing but frivolity; and Luke a wastrel and member of the family who own Hill House.

We first see Eleanor as she...
Published 2 months ago by Keen Reader


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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Visitors may bring their own madness, 6 July 2005
By 
Sally-Anne "mynameissally" (Leicestershire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Doctor Montague has a passion for studying the paranormal and hopes his doctorate in philosophy and degree in anthropology will lend his work in this area an air of respectability. He has rented a haunted house for the summer and, from his list of possibly psychically turned-on individuals, he has selected the most promising candidates and invited them to join him there to stimulate the monstrous pile into providing him with material for his 'definitive work' on the subject. Two of the candidates, Eleanor and Theodora, duly arrive and immediately start as they will go on, with the house and its old retainers, the Dudleys, kicking off their sense of unease. Montague and Luke (not one of the psychically sensitive chosen, but a relative of Hill House's owner) arrive later. As they get to know each other, the house gets to know them and to find and exploit their weaknesses. Poor, lost and lonely Eleanor feels she has found friends - a family even. The house performs for them and terrorises them, but Eleanor begins to enjoy the frisson of terror which gradually diminishes as she feels chosen by the invisible powers within Hill House. She has a growing sense of belonging, not to the new friends from whom she feels more and more alienated, but to the house. The signs of Eleanor's mental disintegration eventually become obvious enough to alarm Montague and the team and the decision he takes in order to remove Eleanor from harm's way, provides the final push as she teeters on the edge.
Shirley Jackson's characters are definite 'types' if not stereotypes and the relationships that develop between them are plausible and interesting. The house is described as 'not sane' but the house is certainly not the only lunatic element. Its visitors bring their own range of mental disfigurement with them. Most of the men in this story and all of the women are deeply neurotic, with Eleanor being the top of the heap, 24 carat wacko. They are all excellent subjects for the house to work with. The terror generated is more restrained than the sort you expect to find in the modern 'bloodfest' type of horror. The tale would fail to terrify any reader who could not bring the power of their own imagination to The Haunting of Hill House. For a reader with imagination however, the book is a potent generator of fear.
Recommended.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars shirley jackson's masterpiece., 10 Sep 2004
By 
S. Hapgood "www.sjhstrangetales.com" - See all my reviews
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I think where some people are nonplussed by this novel is that they come to it expecting a classic haunted house story, and it is that of course, but it's also a subtle look at the steady disintegration of a young woman's mind. I first read it myself several years ago and didn't like it, I was expecting it to be more like the film. I came back to it again recently and have been completely swept away at Ms Jackson's skill as an author.
There are several references to real life haunted house case histories, as in Borley Rectory and Ballechin House, and clearly Ms Jackson was influenced by these, in that she wanted to write a story in which a small party of ghost-hunters hole up in a haunted house to see what will happen. Where this differs from all that though is that Hill House itself appears to be the evil entity, not the ghosts it may contain. She constantly refers to it as a mad place, with a mad appearance. Eleanor Vance, one of the party, is a young woman who has spent many years nursing her invalid mother and missing out on life. She has become deeply introverted and neurotic. (I felt there were some comparisons with Catherine Deneuve's character in "Repulsion"). She wants desperately to belong somewhere, but when the group she finds herself in start to act like a family, i.e joshing each other, teasing etc, she can't cope with it. Some of the early scenes, when the characters are getting to know each other, were reminiscent of "Big Brother". You felt Eleanor needed a Diary Room to retreat to and voice her concerns at! The ghost-hunters do become a family, with Dr Montague, the genial old academic, as the father figure. Hill House itself at times becomes to resemble a comfy sanitorium, with the younger people reduced to a childlike state, spending their days eating and exploring the house and grounds.
The spook factors may be too subtle for some people's tastes. This is no Richard Laymon-style horror with machete-wielding psychopaths leaping out of the woodwork. The most frightening things that happen are the hammerings on the walls. What makes this novel great is the way it shows a small bunch of people acting in an unusual set-up, and of course, the final chilling realisation that Hill House wants Eleanor as it's captive. Stephen King in his book "Danse Macabre" said that he found this fact too horrifying for words. Highly recommended.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best haunted house novel ever written, 29 Nov 2002
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
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The Haunting of Hill House remains one of the most important horror novels of all time and certainly one of the most singular haunted house tales ever written. It is certainly worth mentioning that at no time do we or the characters actually see any sort of visible ghostly manifestation; the phenomena are limited to cold spots, spectral banging on the walls and doors, messages written on walls, and torn, blood-spewed clothing in one room. If Jackson had compelled Hugh Crain (the main who built Hill House) to pop out of the woodwork and say Boo!, this story would have been long forgotten. Still, it quite amazes me that Shirley Jackson has met with such critical success and eternal popularity; I say this only because her writing style is unique and rather off-the-wall. Truly, Jackson's writing itself is haunted, and she herself almost surely was in some manner. There is a degree of insanity in every page; the characters often engage in dialogue that is childish of a sort and certainly different from normal adult conversation. I would think such idiosyncratic writing would appeal only to those like myself who are different, somewhat kooky, outsiders looking at the real world through thick-paned glass that sometimes fogs over or plays tricks with our eyes depending on the angle in which the sun hits it or does not hit it.
Eleanor is an especially appealing character to me because I share many of her doubts and fears: I don't belong, what are people saying about me?, are people laughing at me behind my back?, why am I here and where am I going?, etc. No one rivals Jackson in the ability to paint a deeply moving, psychologically deep portrait of the tortured soul. The fact that so many people praise this book must mean that most people are plagued with self-doubt, which I find sadly comforting. In any event, Eleanor is a perfectly tragic heroine; those who can't relate to her must surely at least pity her. The character of Theodora is also fascinating, as she largely represents Eleanor's opposite: a vibrant personality, full of life and a need to be in the middle of it, probably insecure inwardly but strikingly bold outwardly. This dichotomy between two "sisters" is a constant theme in Jackson's work. The Eleanor-Theo relationship is reflected and honed against the relationship of Hugh Crain's two daughters, twin souls who grew up the dark mansion as loving sisters but who eventually came to hate each other and fight for ownership rights to the house. Eleanor and Theo also have a subtle love-hate relationship, the conflict between the two representing a jealousy over the house. Both want to be the center of attention, although Eleanor would never admit such a desire, and the fact that the house itself obviously harbors a strange enchantment for Eleanor bothers Theo and enchants Eleanor. When Theo's room and clothing are painted in blood, the house clearly signifies the soul with whom its sympathies lie, and this marks a turning point in the text. Eleanor's rapid descent into madness seems a little sudden to me at times, and the exceedingly nonsensical conversations between all of the characters strikes me as quite mad. Of course, at the end, one wonders just which of the later conversations actually happened outside of Eleanor's own mind.
The introduction of the doctor's wife in the closing section of the book effects a radical change in the mood of the novel. Mrs. Montague and her associate Arthur are incredibly annoying people. Their professed beliefs in the paranormal and attempts to contact spirits by way of a planchette clearly upset the mood of both the house and its occupants (and the reader). Their over-the-top belief in spirits and determination to contact them using parlor-method techniques serve to ridicule the house and Eleanor and quickly usher in the dénouement of the story. Eleanor's sense of belonging to the house takes precedence over everything else in her life; she has come home, and the house's wish in this regard is fulfilled. The ending itself is striking and perfectly fitting, I feel, and does much to keep the spirit of this wonderful novel in your mind and soul for a long time. This is not a novel to cast aside and forget; long after you have finished the book, Eleanor and Hill House will haunt your mind and soul.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb novel, 14 Oct 2012
By 
Eleanor (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
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I have just read "The Haunting of Hill House" for the third time and it is still as frightening, disturbing, and well-written as when I first read it.

From the opening paragraph you know you are in good hands:

"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."

I love the horrible parenthesis of 'not sane', the implication that Hill House is a 'live organism', and the chilling indeterminateness of 'whatever walked there, walked alone'.

The story involves a house party at Hill House organized by paranormal researcher Doctor Montague. He is accompanied by caddish Luke Sanderson, a young man due to inherit the house, lovely stylish Theodora, and Eleanor. Eleanor is the book's centre, a shy woman who has been caring for her mother for eleven years and has never had the chance to live life on her terms. Eleanor both deeply craves and fears attention and her troubled personality is just what the 'insane' and 'arrogant' Hill House needs.

As well as being an astute psychological study, "The Haunting of Hill House" is also a very scary horror novel. Reading it is a nerve-wracking experience, as one becomes hyper-aware of every creak and bump in one's own house. Stephen King, a lifelong champion of Jackson's work, dedicated "Firestarter" in memory of Jackson 'who never needed to raise her voice'. I think this sums up her and her work perfectly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Haunting of Hill House, 14 Oct 2012
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Modern Classics) (Kindle Edition)
Dr John Montague is a doctor of philosophy, whose true vocation is the analysis of supernatural manifestations. He has rented Hill House (described as 'not sane') for three months over the summer and is hoping to publish a work on psychic disturbances in a house known to be 'haunted'. To help him with his research he has sent an invitation to several people with some link to the supernatural, but only two actually turn up. The first is Eleanor Vance, who has spent most of her life looking after her invalid mother, and is desperate to escape from a life of boredom and monotony. Second is the lovely Theodora, confident and flirty, the opposite of the repressed Eleanor. Lastly, there is Luke Sanderson, the young man who will inherit the house and whose Aunt insists visits as a representative of the family. Also in the house are the Dudleys, the creepy couple who look after the house and insist they leave before dark.

This is not a horror book, but I personally find it far more creepy than most in that genre. Shirley Jackson wrote with genius and this is a truly chilling read, with excellent characters. We learn the story of Hill House and the fact that nobody who has rented the house has stayed for more than a few days. It it eighty years old (presumably considered old in the US, although I personally know people whose houses have been around since the 1600's and remained ghost free!) and nestled in the hills. Nothing really scary happens - there is writing on the walls, banging on the doors, open doors and windows which seemingly close by themselves - but are they manifestations by ghosts or members of the party? Suspicion and fear reign amongst the group and Eleanor finds herself becoming intuned to every sound of the house. One of the most delightful sections of the book is when Dr Montagu's wife arrives, convinced that she can commune with the spirit world, which brings a breath of humour to a very tense situation. If you don't like the more gory horror books, but would like a brilliantly written and scary read, this is certainly one to consider. If you enjoy this, then do try We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Modern Classics), which is my personal favourite by this wonderful author.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must for fans of creepy haunted house tales!, 4 Dec 2001
By A Customer
If you love tales of creepy old haunted houses, then you must read this! The only book I have found which comes close to it for being unputdownable and for raising goosebumps on your arms is "The woman in Black" by Susan Hill. I found this book works best having seen the original 1960's film, "The Haunting" as the film follows the book very closely and really brings the story to life. I feel possibly this book would appeal more to a female audience, as it has a more subtle, suggested approach, rather than the blood, guts and gore of modern-day horror. I wouldn't bother wasting your precious life away seeing the recent Liam Neeson film of "The Haunting", as it has virtually no connection with this superb novel at all.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My view is don't watch the film before you read this, 27 April 2002
By 
Jay M "jay_mc" (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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Yes I know I made the basic error, but I couldn't really avoid it. I was very young when I saw the excellent original black and white film. So I only learned then that it was based on a book.
Somewhat later I got around to reading the book. For one thing it is remarkably similar to the original film screenplay, lines are identical on page as they are on the film, in certain areas. The quality of the book is not in question, it is a remarkable read, full of suspense and drama, but it all depends on whether you prefer your chills and frights from the page or the screen. Only then, to get the full impact of the storyline, can you decide whether to read this book first then watch the film or vice versa. It's upto you.
My own personal choice would be to read this first, then watch the film, but like me, many of you who have already seen the film and not read this book will be left in a quandary. Don't be, this book is a great read, buy it either way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Haunting of Hill House, 7 July 2014
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
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Dr Montague has decided to investigate the historic happenings of Hill House. He invites assistants to help with the work; Eleanor who has spent years resenting her family and now seeks her own freedom; Theodora who appears to have taste for nothing but frivolity; and Luke a wastrel and member of the family who own Hill House.

We first see Eleanor as she travels on her own, rather odd journey to Hill House. When she gets there she immediately feels that Hill House “is vile; it is diseased; get away from here at once.” Why she feels like this the reader is at a loss to understand; we have not been ‘shown’ at all the depth of feeling of horror that Hill House seems, rather inexplicably to project to visitors. When the rest of the team get there, we move inside the house to ‘live’ the experience of Hill House with them.

The book takes a while to get going; the characters are all rather odd in their unique ways, and the spookiness of the house is not evident until the team are well at home there; for the reader the journey to get to what seems to be meant to be the nub of the point of the novel takes quite a while, and some perserverance. That said, once the book heats up, it really does get spooky. But still, it seemed to me, rather pointless overall. Sadly, I did not find it a success, either as a novel or as a horror story. A pity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring!, 6 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Modern Classics) (Kindle Edition)
I'm sorry, I know there are a lot of people out there who regard this as a classic horror story, but I cannot see what all the fuss is about. I found it rather boring to be honest. In comparison to Susan Hill's "The Woman in Black", which caused me a few sleepless nights, "The Haunting of Hill House" was pretty tame.I didn't find the characters very likeable and the ending was strange. A very disappointing read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Macabre, witty, lit-fic horror, 20 Oct 2013
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Shirley Jackson is fast disabusing me of my dismissal of the horror genre as just a schlocky gratuitous fright-fest.

I am coming to realise, that any genre will be populated by good, bad and indifferent writers, and it is not the genre itself, but the quality of the writing which matters (well, that is certainly true for me)

Just as I have learned not to dismiss Sci-Fi because of writers like Doris Lessing, Ursula le Guin, Christopher Priest and John Wyndham : superb writers, whose subject matter falls (in some books) into the SF category, so I must learn not to be so prejudiced at things-that-go-bump-in-the-night writing, particularly when Henry James, M.R. James and Shirley Jackson produce works in this category.

Take the staple of the haunted house, miles from anywhere, and sew it into the house party, where a group of strangers come together with some purpose. In this case the disparate group are investigating the phenomenon of haunted dwellings, and are a curious group of sensitives - the scientific anthropologist investigator, married to a sensitive (more of whom later), the rather feckless, purposeless young man who will inherit the house, and two young women - a flamboyant, theatrical telepath, and a singularly disturbed, lonely, damaged young woman with a sad life, a squabbling family and no prospects. Mix well with a sinister couple of on-site servants. Throw in a deranged house as background. Later add the investigator's supposed sensitive wife and her companion in things of planchette and ouija board provenance.

Stir carefully, light the blue touch paper and stand back.

What is so marvellous about Jackson is her ability to let things get very dark and frightening - and to have a cool, restrained, sophisticated writing style. She is particularly adept at uncovering the psychology of the dysfunctional, and yet this is done with a fine empathy.

The central character, Eleanor, through whose eyes and psyche we really experience the story, has some similarities to the disturbed central character of Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Penguin Modern Classics). We certainly have someone who is 'not quite right' but Jackson presents Eleanor as both damaged and fragile, yet also unmonstrous, unweird, quite whole, and, yes............rather more aware of texts and subtexts and emotional nuance than most others.

There are terrifying and disturbing things within these pages, not all of which get explained and teased out - indeed Jackson does that clever thing which works if the writer is skilled enough (she is) - which is not to spell out what has so frightened the protagonists, and force the reader to imagine their own horrors. Just what DID Eleanor and Theodora see at that picnic.............

There are spooky moments a plenty. I can indeed imagine how frightening this might have been in the original black and white film, directed by Robert Wise, with that wondrous actor of the damaged. Julie Harris, as Eleanor, with the bangings, the ghostly footsteps and more...........

What elevates Jackson's writing is her economy, her precision in choice of word and phrase - and, her incredible WIT. She isn't writing spoof horror-com, it's real horror, and careful psychology all right, but she just has an incisive Dorothy Parkeresque ability to slice at the jugular whilst being marvellously dry and droll.

She's also, again on this showing, quite brilliant at the opening of a book, able to instantly spin a sticky web, luring the unsuspecting fly reader in so escape is impossible.

So, early on, letting us know a little and a lot, upon the instant, with our central character:

Eleanor Vance was thirty two years old when she came to Hill House. The only person in the world she genuinely hated, now that her mother was dead, was her sister. She disliked her brother-in-law and her five year-old niece, and she had no friends

Yet curiously, in a couple of sentences you will find yourself warming to our unlikely protagonist, willing her to flower.

Jackson's heart and interest is with the outcast, not with the four-square and settled of the world. She likes the weird, the quirk, the eccentric and those who are not heart whole. And so, she ensures, will we
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