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on 15 May 2017
The Haunting of Hill House totally got into my head to the degree that it found it's way into my dreams. I was so involved with the story and characters that they made my head their home.
The characters are so superbly written. Mr and Mrs Dudley unnerved me from the get go. Through them you just knew instantly that strange things were afoot at Hill House. This living, breathing building got to me the way it got to Dr. Montague, Luke, Theo and Eleanor and even though I predicted how the story was going to end, I found myself shocked nevertheless.
The Haunting of Hill House pulls you along in its own, addictive way. It's takes you on a journey. At times it is so fast that you want to slow down and other times, it puts the breaks on and you beg to go faster, but one thing is for sure, once it has you, you have no choice but to ride on until the very end.
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on 24 November 2017
This is a classic ghost story and if you like that sort of thing you really should read it - Shirley Jackson takes and somehow reinvents the tried and tested haunted house genre in a way I hadn't expected. The premise is simple, and you might already know it: Hill House is notoriously haunted, so a paranormal psychologist gathers a handful of supposedly psychic individuals to stay for a few nights, to see what might happen. The story is told through the eyes mostly of Eleanor, a young woman with enough insecurities and demons to fill her own haunted house, and indeed that may be the point. The novel does occasionally lapse into melodrama and has a predictable, tragic ending, but as with most Ghost Stories it's not about the destination, but the journey. Buy it.
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on 2 June 2017
The Haunting of Hill House is a wonderful novel. Four people gather together in a reputedly haunted house to experience and record supernatural phenomena. According to the unreliable narrator, Eleanor, it is the first time she has felt she has belonged anywhere. More than the others, Eleanor is affected by the house. Her relationships with the others are strained, although she seems to feel obsessively close to them at times, especially the other woman, Theodora.

We share some terrifying and confusing experiences with these four “investigators”. After dark, the house and grounds produce nightmarish knocking and visual hallucinations. Humour is provided by the demanding spiritualist wife of Doctor Montague, who strangely enough experiences none of the phenomena that rocks the sanity of the Doctor and his guests. It’s frightening at times and very clever indeed.
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 October 2014
Hill House has a reputation for ghostly goings-on - so much so that even the servants won't stay around after dark. So it's the ideal place for Dr John Montague to carry out an investigation into supernatural manifestations. He collects together a little group of strangers - selected because they have had previous experiences of strange happenings, and they all set off to spend the summer living in the house. The third-person narrative is told entirely from the viewpoint of Eleanor, who has recently lost the mother she has spent years caring for, and it's not long before the reader becomes aware that Eleanor is a rather disturbed and fragile young woman. And, as a narrator, intensely unreliable.

The question is - is the house haunting Eleanor, or is Eleanor haunting the house? How much of what we are told can we believe? Shirley Jackson is great at suddenly shifting perspective and turning everything on its head, and in this one she uses Eleanor's seeming descent into madness to confuse and misdirect. The book begins as almost a traditional gothic horror, only with a typical Jackson twist in that it is all taking place in summer with the sun shining, which I found reminiscent of how she subverted the gothic tradition in her later (and better, in my opinion) book, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. We have doors that close by themselves, strange noises in the night, blood-spattered rooms, half-seen creatures glanced sideways. We also have a twist on the old gothic servitor in the shape of the servants, the Dudleys, who provide a much-needed touch of humour with their lugubrious and sinister warnings. The house, we are told, was deliberately designed as a kind of trick with odd angles and slightly sloping floors, and with the rooms laid out almost as a labyrinth, leading in and out of each other, so that nothing is quite as would be expected. And this is how the story develops too - nothing feels quite linear about it; each time we think we know the characters, they suddenly shift slightly and we are thrown off kilter, perpetually unsettled.

It's in the middle section of the book that we realise that Eleanor's viewpoint can't be relied on, but she's all we've got to go on. Eleanor has never felt that she was wanted anywhere and sees the summer at Hill House as a way to become different - to fit in. At first it seems she's succeeding - she and the other young woman, Theodora, strike up an immediate intimacy and Eleanor even harbours hopes that Luke, the sole young man, is falling for her. Dr Montague becomes like a father figure to them all. But soon paranoia sets in - or is it real? - as Eleanor feels she's being excluded from the group, treated differently - and frighteningly, the increasingly threatening disturbances in the house seem to be centred on her too. But as her relationships with the group spiral downwards, Eleanor has a growing feeling that, in some way, she belongs to the house.

Jackson is brilliant at creating atmosphere and there are parts of the book that are creepy in the extreme. She uses the power of suggestion to leave much of the work up to the reader - a bit like Room 101, Hill House is a place where each person will find his or her own greatest fears. She describes the terror but often leaves the cause to the imagination. There was a point midway where I could genuinely feel the hairs rising on the back of my neck. For me, the end section fell away rather - as it became more confused as to what was real and what was Eleanor's imagination, somehow the scare factor diminished. But it still remained an excellent and disturbing examination of madness - from the inside - and perfect reading material for the spooky season.
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on 29 October 2017
Forget gore, forget blood and bones,forget demons ,devils and monsters,this is true horror. Cold,creeping chills that sneak up on you and draw you in with elegant ,controlled prose. If you've never read Shirley Jackson before you are in for a treat which will remain in your head for a long time.
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on 23 October 2017
A book for a evening alone. It was for me deliciously chilling.
You might just need that glass of brandy before you face that climb up the stairs in the darkness.

A familiar tale but in its purest form.
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on 20 October 2013
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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VINE VOICEon 25 October 2015
Dr Montague, an eminent anthropologist with an interest in paranormal activity decides to spend time at Hill House, which has been plagued with rumours of mysterious going-ons for eighty years. He gathers a group of voluntary assistants: Eleanor, Theodore and Luke, who all witness various anomalies but are they equipped to deal with the malevolence that lurks within Hill House?

Written in the late 1950s, this novel is highly regarded as a milestone in horror writing and in the way it portrays the imposing Hill House and the suspense built throughout the novel, I can understand why. However, there's a lot of telling in this novel and very little showing. Ultimately a lot of the details of the horror are left to the readers imagination.

A good ghost story for the era it was written, but not the best I have read in 2015.
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Originally published in 1959, adapted into film 'The Haunting in 1963, The Haunting of Hill House is known among authors, including Stephen King, "as possibly the most important horror novel of the twentieth century". There's no doubt this novel has been used as a source of inspiration for writers of horror since it's publication and though Shirley Jackson might be gone her work has certainly not been forgotten.

So, what's it all about? Doctor Montague is a paranormal researcher who hopes his academic credentials will add an air of respectability to his paranormal experimentation. Montague finds a supposed 'haunted house' and sets about recruiting a series of 'subjects' to stay in the house allowing him to study their reaction to any phenomenon that occurs.

Unfortunately, for them, the house is much more cunning than it's occupants. Just as they believe they've exposed it's deep, dark secrets their contact with Hill House has exposed their own inner turmoil leaving them completely vulnerable to it's influence...or so we're led to believe.

At the heart of the plot nestles the character of Eleanor a lost, lonely woman bullied and exhausted to the point of mania and depression. Eleanor has nowhere to go, she doesn't belong, not until Hill House calls out to her and Eleanor begins to have a sense of finally coming home. The more Eleanor falls apart, the more her mental frailty is exposed, the more Hill House appears to ramp up it's campaign of terror against the group drawing Eleanor deeper and deeper into it's dark heart. Will Montague succeed in his attempts to send her home? Will the house finally possess her? I'm not telling you, please read the novel, you're missing a treat if your don't.

The strongest element of The Haunting of Hill House is the cast of eccentric, if not totally insane, characters. The method by which Shirley Jackson opens up their individual neurosis and plays them off against the influence of the house, and one another, is brilliantly done. Also, and not to be underestimated, was Jackson's decision to place Eleanor's mental 'implosion' at the forefront of the plot, always just waiting to happen, which packs in a huge amount of tension.

Is there a negative?. Abosultely not but; The Haunting of Hill House is an old novel written before contemporary horror was born and lacking in any blood fests, deranged serial killers, vampires, werewolves, ghouls or zombies. This is a gentle, subtle tale of haunting and mental breakdown relying upon a building sense of psychological tension to move it along and keep the reader hooked. If you're expecting to be horrified or terrified then you'll be disappointed. If you're prepared to follow the story and use your imagination you'll find The Haunting of Hill House eerie, brooding, dark and enjoy the read as much as I did.
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on 31 January 2018
As a narrative, the story is relatively fast-paced, despite its age. There is nothing here which would classify as 'horror', or even a 'thriller' by contemporary standards. The work retains value however as it is a perfect exercise in writing such tales. Worthy of reading for fans of the genre, as well as aspiriational authors (although the work would be rejected by publishers today as it falls short of both word-count and contemporary classifications for horror and thrills).
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