Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

I don’t believe in ghosts, in things that go bump in the night, I grew up in a house that’s the best part of 200 years old and felt perfectly happy, I wandered around Hampton Court Palace and didn’t notice a single cold spot or headless Ann Boleyn.

I think ghost hunters and stories work best if you’re susceptible to them, and that’s certainly what happens when Eleanor is invited to spend a summer in the supposedly sinister Hill House by Dr Montague.

There are strange noises, cold spots, singing coming from empty rooms and blood dripping down the walls. As Eleanor, Theodora, Luke and the Doctor spend their nights trapped in Hill House, they all start to go a bit odd.

They become suspicious of one another, listening at doors and watching each other. Their paranoia knows no bounds. When Dr Montague’s wife and her ‘friend’ arrive to test the house’s manifestations, the whole thing begins to boil over.

The claustrophobia of the house, combined with the sinister layout and the apparent religious fervour of its builder, create a heady atmosphere for people, like Eleanor and Theodora (picked by the Dr for their supposed psychic sensitivity), and drives things to a tragic conclusion.

Jackson is a wonderful writer, her work is atmospheric and sinister, I loved We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which played out like an extended locked room mystery with its cast of characters self-imposed prisoners in one big, slightly creepy house, and here she presents another.

I wasn’t scared, but intrigued by the premise, is the house sinister because the Dr has told them it is, or is there truly something there? You decide.

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