Monday, October 20, 2014

Bookmonkey x Penguin Horror Day 20: The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House has long been a favourite horror story of mine. Although I’m a longtime fan of monster horror (Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.), there is something really chilling about a well put together haunted house story that just sticks with you.

Jackson’s book is truly insidious, creating in the main character of Eleanor someone that the reader can immediately relate to and sympathize with, and then bringing her to Hill House, a place that is from sentence one, one of the spookiest places to exist in fiction.

"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 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."

Initially put forth as a doctor’s examination of a reportedly haunted house and the events he and his assistants find there, the story is one of the subtlest examples of horror you can find. The evil in the story builds, slowly but surely, and with the author’s straight-forward prose, you find yourself getting lost in the drama of the four leads just before something really horrible occurs.

As with the first three books in the imprint, the book is put together extremely well, and the introduction by author Laura Miller really got me interested in reading more of Jackson’s work that the two stories I know best (this one and the 1949 short story, The Lottery). The cover art for the book is by far the most chilling of the entire imprint to date, and the book does include a “further reading” section for readers interested in reading more works by or about Jackson.

Simply an excellent read.

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