Wednesday, December 30

Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House

A researcher and three volunteers form a house party at a known ‘haunted’ house in the hope of documenting paranormal occurrences there. It isn’t long before the house obliges and strange things start to manifest, particularly around the most vulnerable member of the group-a young woman of questionable mental and emotional stability.
As time goes by and the paranormal activity becomes dangerously focussed on the woman the other occupants of the house insist that she depart for her own safety. But she has embraced her connection to the house and refuses to leave. When her companions try to force her to go, the house itself steps in to ensure she stays with it forever.
Acclaimed as a classic of the genre I had high hopes for this novel, perhaps too high, for the work dismally failed to impress.
I found none of the characters to be sympathetic in the least. They behave in an entirely unbelievable manner right from the start and the dialogue often straddles the boarder between just plain silly and outright ridiculous.
There is a decided lack of atmosphere-eerie or otherwise. On the few occasions when things looked to be taking a turn for the spooky the author backs off leaving the reader wondering why the characters are so scared.
Supposedly groundbreaking at the time of its publication not only has it failed to age well but I found it compares poorly to earlier works of horror. For creepy atmosphere the reader would be better off with almost anything by Henry James. Or if psychological decay is where terror is to be found then Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s tale The Yellow Wallpaper is infinitely superior.
The best I can say for this story is that it was a great concept poorly executed.-Lynn

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