Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel, The Haunting of Hill House, updated the ghost story, and used its various tropes to create a new kind of character study. (Forget those douchetastic ghosthunter shows—this team has a suave elegance to their work). It’s mostly the story of Eleanor, a lonely, mousy misfit of a woman who slowly and disturbingly falls in love with the foreboding, architectural monstrosity known as Hill House. Eleanor has an active imagination and never seems quite connected with the mundane world. She comes alive in Hill House, where she is a part of parapyschological research team. And the house, seemingly, seems share her affections. It communicates with her in ways that are scary….and oddly, tender. The reader wants Eleanor to join with her beloved, and escape from it at the same time. Jackson creates marvelous secondary characters—the brash, chic probably lesbian artist Theo, the bratty playboy heir to Hill House Luke, and doddering Professor who heads up the research team. She also adds a kind of mordant humor, such as the dour doomladen housekeeper. Jackson’s prose is written with a delicate beauty that suffuses even the more suspenseful set pieces; neither movies that used the book as source material manage to capture that sensibility. The Haunting of Hill House is novel that stays with reader. It leaves you with deep, lingering horror.
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