Books from Hell #2: The Haunting of Hill House

Read my earlier post to find out why I’m reviewing this book.

The Haunting of Hill House

By Shirley Jackson, 1959

Like old movies, old books still have the ability to scare you — just don’t expect the gore and salaciousness of some of today’s favourites. In the olden days (1950s), Shirley Jackson was at the top of her game. She wrote the classic The Haunting of Hill House, which was a no-brainer to be part of this list of horror classics. And though (despite many reviews to the contrary) I was expecting a boring old, dusty book, I encountered a lovely and entertaining (and chilling) piece of writing.

I didn’t want it to end, but when it did, I was satisfied. I had been titillated by the plot, engaged by the characters, taken away from the terrible memory of the 1999 adaptation, The Haunting, and unnerved to the bone.

I can’t think of one negative thing to say, but one thing that I can take away for my own writing is that atmosphere matters, and also that one doesn’t need to be so heavy-handed with plot. Jackson’s plot creeps along just as its central character, Eleanor, evolves.

Like so many of my horror writing idols, I would strongly recommend that other newbies read this piece (posthaste!). My one regret is that I didn’t read it earlier in my career. But then, a good book is like a fine wine.