Fantastically Realistic: Thoughts on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Welcome back to my third Halloween-themed post!

The Haunting of Hill House
By Shirley Jackson

Until last October, my only experience with Shirley Jackson had been listening to The Lottery what felt like a few dozen times in high school. While enjoyable, it wasn’t the same as experiencing her first hand, so I selected We Have Always Lived in the Castle as part of last year’s Halloween series. (Read my review here.) After a positive experience last year, I chose The Haunting of Hill House this year.

Thoughts

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 my itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so 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.

With The Haunting of Hill House, Jackson brought her patented almost-normal-but-still-not-quite-right characters in a realistic setting with paranormal or occult occurrences and influences. Like We Have Always Lived in the Castle’s Merricat Blackwood, Eleanor Vance, who would become a very short-term resident of Hill House, exhibits stunted emotions and thought processes and a paranoid affect. We experience some of her disturbing and insecure inner monologue, which still doesn’t even foreshadow how the book would end.

Perhaps it has us now, this house, perhaps it will not let us go.

Overall, I found The Haunting of Hill House to be an excellent Halloween read. Like my other top-choice Halloween reads, this book isn’t terrifying, but it presents just enough suspense and just enough of the paranormal that it kept my interest and maintained a gradually building sense of dread.

Rating

Writing 4 out of 5 stars

I love Jackson’s complex sentences and how she successfully pairs them with simple sentences that pack a strong punch. Overall, though, while technically strong, there were parts of her writing and the story that didn’t quite click for me.

Character Development  5 out of 5 stars

Despite the brief week they spent together, Jackson’s characters developed a unique relationship. Their unusual dialogue added to the overall impact of the book—it almost seemed that as a reader I was somehow a member of the group in Hill House due to an initiation of sorts with the dialogue.

Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars

While the book only spanned one week of time, it seemed that the group had been at Hill House for much longer—quite possibly what Jackson wanted the reader to feel. The plot was well structured; however, it seemed to squeeze the main action points too close to the end of the book. They almost felt rushed.

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

Again, Jackson tells a fantastic, suspenseful tale using her trademark realistic setting, slightly offbeat if not cognitively and emotionally stunted characters.

Total  4.5 out of 5 stars

Have you read The Haunting of Hill House? What did you think?

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Weekly Reads: 10.27.14

It’s Halloween week, and I’m reading

The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House
By Shirley Jackson

Last year I read and enjoyed Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the CastleI was excited to check one more of Jackson’s uniquely unusual books off my to read list this year. I’m halfway through (hoping to finish by Thursday), and so far it’s holding up to my expectations. I’m quite excited to finish and share my thoughts with you!

If you’re interested in my thoughts as I read the book, check out my new Tumblr Totally Contains Spoilers.

What are you reading this week? I hope you have a great reading week!

**Linked up with Book Journey**

Book Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

 

Book Review of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson | The 1000th Voice Blog

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
By Shirley Jackson

Have you ever read Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery? I haven’t, but in high school an oral interp team mate read it as her performance. I must have watched her performance a couple dozen times that season, and I was always fascinated by how creepy it was, how horrible the situation was and how it was just accepted as normal by the town’s residents. This is my first experience with Shirley Jackson since then. While I found this one creepy, it’s not on par with The Lottery. 

Quotables

Uncle Julian was, in my opinion, the most quotable.

“‘He is a bastard.’
‘Uncle Julian-‘
‘In a purely metaphorical sense, I assure you. Both my brothers married women of very strong will. That is merely a word used–among men, my dear, I apologize for submitting you to such a word–to categorize an undesirable fellow.'”

“‘He was a man very fond of his person,’ Uncle Julian said. ‘Given to adorning himself, and not overly clean.'”

Rating

Writing 3.5 out of 5 stars

Jackson has an interesting writing styling. This story wasn’t as compelling as The Lottery, but still good.

Character Development 4 out of 5 stars

The characters Jackson created in this story were very creepy and quite well developed. Merikat’s behavior kept me wondering through the entire story. Why did she behave the way she did? Mental illness? I don’t know for sure, but she was a well-developed character.

Plot Structure 3 out of 5 stars

This novella moved along at a nice pace with an interesting development towards the end.

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

There’s no doubt about it, Jackson is an interesting storyteller.

Total 3.625 stars

Have you read The Castle or any of Jackson’s other stories? What did you think?

Halloween 2013 The 1000th Voice Blog

Weekly Reads: 10.21.2013

in which I share my planned reading for the week ahead

Without any preliminary chit chat, I need to say one thing, “Oh. Em Gee.” I’m 50 pages from the end of Rebecca, and I’m loving it.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier | Weekly Reads | The 1000th Voice blog

Rebecca
By Daphne du Maurier

Once I finish this (tonight or tomorrow), I’ll start

We Have Always Live in the Castle by Shirley Jackson | Weekly Reads | The 1000th Voice Blog

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
By Shirley Jackson

**Linked up with Book Journey**

What are you reading this week? Is the season inspiring your choice of books?