Top critical review
The Chills Did Not Come for Me
9 November 2018
I feel like I’ve misread this book somehow. All the glowing reviews about how this classic horror tale would chill me to my bones came to naught when it did nothing of that sort for me. Perhaps it fared a little better as a psychological character study of the intensely lonely Eleanor who is invited by a Dr Montague investigating psychic and supernatural phenomenon, to come stay in this old abandoned and possibly haunted Sanderson Hill House.
Together with the layabout Luke Sanderson, heir in waiting to inherit the house, social butterfly and artistic free spirit Theodora, Eleanor feels both a sense of displacement and belonging with this sudden mismatched clique. Eleanor is a sorry character, who at 32, is something of a spinster with missed opportunities, having spent much of her years looking after her sick and abusive mother, who had just passed on recently. That is not a politically incorrect thing to say about her in the context of the period in which the book was written and set. We also pity her for her being valued much less than the car she shares with her sister and brother-in-law quite early on in the book when she asks to use the car to get to Hill House.
The writing is disturbingly disjointed - I am not sure if the dialogue and feelings conveyed by the characters were meant to feel so disconnected, but it did give me a sense of watching an old reel of black and white film on an ancient projector that flickers and jumps, distorting the flow of conversation and action in the text. Perhaps that was the horror I was supposed to feel. There was much potential at the start with all the ominous warnings and signs by the misanthropic caretaker and his wife, the Dudleys, that portents what could possibly happen when dusk came, but when it finally did, nothing much really happens besides some loud knocks and doors that just refuse to stay opened.
What a letdown.