The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson)

The Haunting of Hill House is a novel by Shirley Jackson.
Finished on: 27.10.2020

John Montague is an avid researcher of supernatural phenomena. When he learns of Hill House, he is convinced that he has finally found the location where he can definitely prove that hautings really take place. He rents Hill House for the summer and invites several people to join him, all of whom have – according to his research – some experience with the supernatural. The ones who take him up are Eleanor Vance, a shy young woman, and Theodora, her polar opposite. Additionally joining them is Luke Sanderson who will inherit Hill House at some point. The four of them settle in Hill House – and things do take an eerie turn quickly, in ways no-one expected.

Shirley Jackson had been on my to-read-list since about forever, and watching Shirley finally gave me the last push to pick up The Haunting of Hill House (which had been lying on my nightstand for at least a year). And hot damn, it was so absolutely great. I’m completely blown away by it.

The book cover showing a woman's shadow reflected in water.

The Haunting of Hill House is one of the most beautifully written books I have read in a long time. I literally started underlining quotes on the first page and I probably could have just lined every single paragraph here. The first few sentences alone, absolute goosebump material:

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.

The story itself may not feel entirely fresh anymore – I think there have been too many haunted house stories that followed its path in the years since its release. But it doesn’t matter with prose like that – and with the characters she introduces who are absolutely vibrant. Especially Eleanor and Theo and how they (don’t) relate to each other (plus, super extra bonus points for making Theo queer).

I blazed through the book, entirely engrossed in it. And when I finished, I wanted to read everything else Jackson had ever written immediately. I can only gush about this book and tell you to read it, too.

Summarizing: Amazing.

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