The Haunting of Hill House
By Shirley Jackson
Eleanor Vance has no life. After the death of her mother, whom she physically cared for the last few years, she moves in with her sister, brother-in-law, and niece. She owns nothing, has no job, and desperately wants to belong somewhere. When a letter from a Dr. John Montague arrives in the mail inviting her to spend the summer at Hill House, she readily accepts thinking this is her chance at a new life. Her sister balks at the idea and tries to stop her by telling her that she cannot borrow the car. Eleanor decides to defy her sister and herself. She takes the car and goes to Hill House not understanding or prepared for what she is about to face.
Dr. Montague is studying the paranormal and plans to write a book documenting the events at Hill House which is widely reported to be haunted. The individuals he invites to spend the summer at the house have all experienced some sort of paranormal activity and he hopes to tap into their collective abilities. With the arrival of Theodora and Luke Sanderson, the experiment begins and quickly takes a strange and frightening turn. Over the next few days, Eleanor gets pulled in deeper and begins to lose her grip on reality. When the others try to help, the experiment takes a tragic turn.
As the reader, you hear Eleanor’s thoughts and they are sad, scary, and deluded. She is always imaging the happy life she thinks she should be living but she’s so incredibly unstable that you feel uncomfortable knowing her thoughts. It’s these same thoughts that keep you hooked though. There’s something so very wrong about the house but also Eleanor that the two become almost one in the book. When the paranormal activity picks up, you do wonder if it’s all in Eleanor’s head.
When reality takes over, you feel bad for Eleanor because what happens to her is almost inevitable. There is no way out and no escape from her depressing life. She exercises the only option she can see and while she does, for one brief moment, question her choice, it’s already too late for her.
I didn’t find The Haunting of Hill House scary for the paranormal activity but Eleanor’s thoughts and life which give the book a tragic and creepy feel. The backdrop of the haunted house only adds to the effect and brings to life the raving thoughts of a person so depressed and scared of life that she has to imagine a new one every second of the day.