I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.
A classic ghost story. As per usual, I read this only during day light hours in order to prevent a lot of unnecessary cowering on my part. I truly hate being scared by my own imagination.
While reading this short tale, I was reminded forcibly of two other books. The Haunting of Hill House shares significant characteristics with The Turn of the Screw by Henry James: an unreliable female narrator, who may or may not have mental issues, and strange things going that we have to take her word for.
Stephen King has called The Haunting of Hill House “one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century” and it was obviously an influence on his novel The Shining. The malevolent building, which influences the people within it, the staff who give obvious warnings to those who choose to enter said building, the confusion developing in those who stay for any length of time. In King’s work, the horror of the situation is more concrete—we are left in no doubt that there is evil in the hotel and that it is stalking the humans within.
Meant to be my Halloween book for 2015, I found myself too busy with life to finish even this short tale until well into November. I love to see the relationships between classic books and look forward to reading more of Shirley Jackson’s work.