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The Haunting of Hill House


Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House
average rating is 4 out of 5

Horror, Supernatural, Gothic

R. Alex Jenkins

This is an easy book to read but very hard to review because of the weight of expectation. I mostly loved it, especially for expecting crusty horror from the 1880s published in 1959 (for some reason). The writing style is humorous, quirky, fluid, witty and unpretentious, full of banter and fun, and feels remarkably fresh and modern. Characters are funny, likeable and easy to get to know, and accessible through the approachable writing style.

This is not your usual horror or thriller novel, but a strange and almost inexplicable work of madness, sadness and loneliness coming from within the house itself, not necessarily from the rather dippy characters and temporary inhabitants who react like pawns on a chessboard, imagining terrible events in their own minds as the metaphoric walls come tumbling down, rabbits skip across lawns to disappear down endless warrens, perhaps white, yellow, pink, who knows? None of it actually matters in a similar way to the Fall of The House of Usher, as the house distances itself in its wait for a catastrophic trigger or push that sends the ramparts crashing down, like coping with schizophrenia, drug use, or like a veteran trying to survive in the drizzling rain in vietnam, pumped with adrenaline, attempting to avert impending attacks from hidden sources of terror.

The Haunting of Hill House is more cynical humour than traditional horror, which surprised me, more like Alice In Wonderland than a scary fright, and hard to classify or comprehend due to its less than serious attitude from a group of naive and strangely likeable characters looking for kicks, mystery and undocumented explanations about life and their basic worth, in their search for more than everyday existence, their need to make money and simply make ends meet for arbitrary, more than concrete, reasons.

The Haunting of Hill House makes you realise you're only a step away from insanity and a mere twist from la-la-land where nothing really matters any more. Welcome to your padded cell, my friend, and your new home.

Surprising for all the wrong reasons. Not much horror, no real terror, only a group of people dorking around and getting to grips with who they are and why they even care. An ethereal experience because of psychological rather than graphic content. Shirley Jackson was obviously off her nut in a totally irresistible, liveable and ecstatically active way, free to be herself without going for the jugular or trying to be extreme - possibly the most scariest moment in the book is when Theodora's clothes and wardrobe get mysteriously smattered with blood. Think of everything that makes you soil your pants about moors murders, the fear of having your throat ripped out by wild beasts, being lost forever and never able to turn back, maybe, or the omnipresent and oppressive presence that never leaves you alone while you still remain.

Here it’s just one stream of consciousness, and the thing that surprised me the most was the sarcastic tongue-in-cheekness from beginning to end. I still don't know what to make of it, like an episode of Scooby Doo unmasking the darned villains who would have almost gotten away with it if it wasn't for those pesky kids!

I question the need for so much petty detail in our lives, when being content and happy is much more achievable and straightforward if simply let alone. Sometimes we need the bigger picture, a dystopian scenario with a meteor-threatened planet, or impending doom from some zombie apocalypse, or just an old and creaky house that tries to threaten our sanity.

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