Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is a classic horror novel. I've always loved the film based on it, but I'd never read the book itself. It was no disappointment. It makes a wonderful companion to the film, different in some ways while telling the same story. I recommend both. They sustain an eerie quality that attracts me.

Laura Miller's introduction (spoilers abound, so read this intro after the book) is reprinted here. She says the book "exudes a lingering, clammy dread," and she compares it to Henry James' The Turn of the Screw.

On Eleanor's way to Hill House (and the quote recurs through the book):
Journey's end, she thought, and far back in her mind, sparkling like the little stream, a tag end of a tune danced though her head, bringing distantly a word or so; "In delay there lies no plenty," she thought, "in delay there lies no plenty.
From Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night, it's a song:
What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth's a stuff will not endure.
She also quotes, "Journeys end in lovers meeting" throughout the book. This is also from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night:
O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear; your true love's coming,
That can sing both high and low:
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man's son doth know.
Early in their time at Hill House, the doctor mentions having brought Pamela along to help him sleep. I got a big kick out of this since I've read that book. It can in no way be called a riveting read. The doctor says, "If any of you has trouble sleeping, I will read aloud to you. I never yet knew anyone who could not fall asleep with Richardson being read aloud to him." He later mentions having brought Clarissa Harlowe to read once he's done with Pamela, and I honestly think Clarissa might be even more boring than Pamela. When he does finish Pamela, he begins Charles Grandison (another epistolary novel by Richardson). Can he pick 'em or what!

An interesting quote from midway through the book:
"No physical danger exists," the doctor said positively. "No ghost in all the long histories of ghosts has ever hurt anyone physically. The only damage done is by the victim to himself."
from the back of the book:
Four seekers have arrived at the rambling old pile known as Hill House. Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of psychic phenomena; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Luke, the adventurous future inheritor of the estate; and Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past. As they begin to cope with chilling, even horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead. For Hill House is gathering its powers - and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.


  1. There were some scenes in this book that I found terrifying; the strange knocking at the door and such. It was so eerie; now that I think about it, it does read like The Turn of the Screw. I haven't seen the movie, though; I wonder if I'd like it knowing how it ends!

    1. i don't mind knowing how movies end, but i prefer books be surprises for some reason. that said, i enjoyed this book even knowing the ending because there were enough differences between them in plot & tone to make it feel different to me.

  2. This sounded vaguely familiar to me, and for some reason I saw Liam Neeson and Lili Taylor before me. A quick check at imdb says that what I remember - "The Haunting" from 1999 - is a remake of an earlier film - 1963, with Julie Harris and Richard Johnson - based on this book. I must have been bored that night because I never never watch horror movies, but I really liked it anyway, though it clearly was not Neesons greatest hour... Which of the films is your favourite?

    1. i haven't seen the remake, but i do dearly love the original 1963 film. i like haunted house films & ghost story films, and i think this one's a treasure. i guess i should see the 1999 version sometime...