The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson  Book Review

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is a gothic horror.

Built by Hugh Crain, Hill House is an 80-year-old mansion with a reputation for supernatural activity. The book centres around an experiment run over the summer by supernatural investigator Dr John Montague at the mansion. Having sent out invitations to people he believes have had real paranormal experiences he only manages to get two to commit, making the party of only four including himself, Luke Sanderson, the heir to Hill House, Eleanor Vance, a young woman who runs away from living with her sister and brother in law after the death of her invalid mother; and Theodora, a flamboyant artist with a sapphic edge.

It does not take all four of the members to start experiencing strange events in the house, including mysterious noises, temperature changes and ghosts. Of all the guests Eleanor seems to be experiencing more than the rest, but at the same time, she can no longer be sure about what is actually happening to her in reality or in the confines of her own mind.

Having first watched the movie and the TV series the Haunting of Hill House was not at all what I was expecting. There was no jump scares or gory horror. Instead, it’s a quintessential gothic that relies on creating a suffocating atmosphere and developing the location into a character in itself.

This book is very much about the psyches of the characters and how mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety can haunt someone. In the end, the manifestations that can’t Eleanor are very much a part of her as they are a part of the house.

Read this book if you:

  • Enjoy intelligent horror
  • Like exploring the nuance between what a monster is
  • Want a chilling tale that is not gory or terrifying
  • Like female characters who break the moulds of their time




Excerpt from The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson 

She could not remember ever being truly happy in her adult life; her years with her mother had been built up devotedly around small guilts and small reproaches, constant weariness, and unending despair.

Without ever wanting to become reserved and shy, she had spent so long alone, with no one to love, that it was difficult for her to talk, even casually, to another person without self-consciousness and an awkward inability to find words. Her name had turned up on Dr. Montague’s list because one day, when she was twelve years old and her sister was eighteen, and their father had been dead for not quite a month, showers of stones had fallen on their house, without any warning or any indication of purpose or reason, dropping from the ceilings, rolling loudly down the walls, breaking windows and pattering maddeningly on the roof.

The stones continued intermittently for three days, during which time Eleanor and her sister were less unnerved by the stones than by the neighbors and sightseers who gathered daily outside the front door, and by their mother’s blind, hysterical insistence that all of this was due to malicious, backbiting people on the block who had had it in for her ever since she came. After three days Eleanor and her sister were removed to the house of a friend, and the stones stopped falling, nor did they ever return, although Eleanor and her sister and her mother went back to living in the house, and the feud with the entire neighborhood was never ended. The story had been forgotten by everyone except the people Dr. Montague consulted; it had certainly been forgotten by Eleanor and her sister, each of whom had supposed at the time that the other was responsible.