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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson


I’m not too brave when it comes to reading scary books. I do like non-gory horror movies but there’s something about reading vs. watching that makes me more sensitive to scary content. This year, with our Halloween challenge, I decided to join in and participate with our readers (although I’m obviously not entering for the prize). Each week for the month of October we will be reading books that fit a specific theme. Tomorrow we announce our winner of the weekly raffle and our next weekly theme. Join in if you haven’t already.

Last week our theme was “dead things.” I picked The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. See what I thought about it. Was I able to sleep through the night?

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Published in: 1959
Reviewed by: Jen
Rating: 4.5 stars
Find it/buy it here:The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House is one of Shirley Jackson’s most well-known books and is considered to be one of the best, if not THE best, literary ghost stories. Dr. Montague invites 3 individuals to stay several nights in what locals consider a haunted mansion in order to explore and record the psychic phenomenon. Among the invited individuals is Eleanor, a young, fragile, and lonely woman who as a child experienced some unusual things. At first, things are relatively quiet at Hill House but as the nights progress, things start to go bump in the night. Eleanor seems to be particular susceptible to the events in the house. The more things start to manifest, the more Eleanor starts to breakdown. Eventually, it becomes difficult to distinguish whether events are real or imagined.

I surprised myself by loving this book (truthfully, it wasn’t completely out of the blue since I also enjoyed We Have Always Lived in this Castle). The writing is wonderful, but what made the book special for me was the way that Jackson makes you wonder whether the book is a psychological study, horror story, or both. It has a little bit of everything. The creepy groundskeeper, the stoic (and often humorous) housekeeper, spine-tingling moments, and an unreliable narrator. The story is told mostly from the perspective of Eleanor and she teeters on the edge of sanity even at the beginning of the book.

I recommend the books for those who like psychological, intelligent ghost stories rather than gory horror. It wasn’t terrifying. It didn’t keep me up at night but it was deliciously creepy and thought-provoking.

If you have ever had the misfortune (like I did) of watching the 1999 movie of the same title, don’t let that deter you from the book. The movie was probably one of the worst ones I have ever seen and was nothing like the book. I’ve heard others say that the 1963 version (clip below) was true to the book and very good.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Want to read the book? You can find a copy here: The Haunting of Hill House

Remember tomorrow morning we post our next weekly theme. We hope you join us next week!

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. I haven’t read that book, but I know how you feel about reading “scary” books. I’m not a big fan of horror movies, but I am fascinated by, not really the horror genre, but by mysterious / creepy / supernatural books, though I do think twice before reading them because I find reading “scary” books much scarier than watching it.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 11, 2015
    • You should try this one. Or join us for our next theme starting tomorrow. Perhaps you can find one that fits and is not traditional horror. I’d be curious to see what you thing of this one!


      October 11, 2015
      • We’ll see….I’m always open to trying new things 🙂

        I’m actually reading Frankenstein now, to get into the feel of Halloween. I just started, so so far, nothing “scary” has happened yet.

        Thanks for the invitation!

        Liked by 1 person

        October 11, 2015
  2. Great post and great choice. me, too. I love The Haunting of Hill House. I have read and reread this book many times since I first discovered it in high school. It always holds up because the writing is so good. besides Hill House I’ve only read The Lottery by Jackson. Will put The Castle on my wish list.

    P. S. I confess to being a fan of the film. It was the film that first led me to the book. The book is always better but I still find find the film spooky and Julie Harris’s performance “haunting.”

    Liked by 2 people

    October 12, 2015
    • That’s the good film so it’s acceptable 🙂 The terrible one is the 1999 version with Liam Neeson and Lily Taylor


      October 12, 2015
  3. This is one of those cases where our tastes diverge. I read this early in the year and was underwhelmed. I dug up my review from Shelfari: A classic of the horror/suspense genre. Unfortunately this particular genre does not keep my interest. I read this in between Infinite Jest and Johnny and the Dead two wildly different books, a thousand plus page notorious classic and a two-hundred page children’s book. Each of those novels featured ghosts but they were complex, verbose, engaging ghosts with goals, principles, aspirations… Those are the kind of supernatural apparitions that I like to read about, not angry loud bangs and shakes in the night.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 12, 2015
    • I agree that it may be a letdown if expecting more of a ghost focus. I liked it precisely because that is what it wasn’t. It was more psychological novel than ghost story.


      October 12, 2015

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