Haunting of Hill House

Jackson, Shirley. The Haunting of Hill House. Pengin Horror, 2013.

Reason read: October is the time for spooky stories. I also needed a story where the house is central to the plot for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge. This fit the bill.

Any story endorsed by Stephen King is going to be a thriller. At least, one would think. Such is the case with The Haunting of Hill House. I was thrilled with it. Jackson is masterful at making an old mansion come alive in subtle, yet ominous ways. For starters, the house is built all wrong. Jackson obviously understood that symmetry is the key to desired beauty, so to make something ugly it has to be confusing with uneven angles that defy logic. Sightlines would not make sense. Doors have to lead nowhere. Staircases turn inhabitants around to the point of dizzying confusion. Despite all this, a certain Dr. Montegue has heard all the rumors about Hill House and cannot wait to investigate the so-called haunted house. He has been waiting for a house like this all his life. His “guests” Eleanor Vance and Theodora (first name only Theodora) join him and the heir to Hill House, Luke Sanderson, in a quest to search out the ghosts and paranormal activity.
Rules of the house: try not to close any doors, keep lights on at all times, don’t try to leave the house at night, never get separated and/or try to do everything together. It goes wothout saying, they all fail at one or all of these commands at one time or another. Hill House starts to show its personality when it first drops the tempature. The colder the room, the closer the threat. Then it tries to get the group to break up by masterfully turning them against one another. Eleanor is the obvious weakest link. She feel empty before even coming to Hill House. The death of her mother weighs on her and guilt threatens to strangle her at every quiet moment. Guess who falls prey to the house?

As an aside, my father-in-law was not a fan of neither the book nor the movie. I’m not sure why. Since it’s October, I watched both versions of the remake. I can’t tell you which one I liked better. The 1963 version was more true to the novel, but the 1999 version was scarier (people actually die in the latter version).

Author fact: Jackson died in North Bennington, Vermont. Just up the road from me.

Book trivia: The Haunting of Hill House was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1959. It was also made into a kooky little movie in 1963.

Nancy said: Pearl had lots to say about The Haunting of Hill House. She said it cemented Jackson’s reputation (despite two bad movies). She called it a classic that has been “scaring people” since it was first written. She also said it was a “superb” example of the range horror fiction.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice, once in the chapter called “Ghost Stories” (p 100) and again, in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 217). A little redundant.

Lottery

Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. Amereon Limited, 1976.

I don’t think I have to explain the plot to anyone. In one sentence: it is the short story of a community that annually choses someone to stone to death. I had so many questions as a teenager reading The Lottery in high school. Who was the third person narrator and why do they never express emotion or share the thoughts and feelings of other characters? It’s as if the scene they describe is too horrible for humanity and they purposely keep their distance by staying out of the other characters’ heads. As a result, the dialogue has to be heavy and masterful enough to carry the action. Otherwise, no one would understand what is truly going on. The other questions I had: Who was Mr. Summers and why does he get to conduct the lottery? Who came up with the black box in the first place? If everyone avoids the black box and keeps their distance from it, why have it around at all? No one wanted to help Mr. Summers even move it. Did this community continue using the box just because of tradition? Lastly, how does Jackson as a young mother come up with something like this?

Reason read: Shirley Jackson was born in December. Read in her honor.

Author fact: Jackson is bets known for her horror.

Book trivia: The Lottery first appeared in “The New Yorker in 1948. It was awarded the O Henry Award in 1963.

Nancy said: Pearl described The Lottery as “endlessly anthologized.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Ghost Stories” (p 100).