Sunday 23 October 2011
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson
My first knowledge of this book was actually the 1999 film "The Haunting" starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luke Wilson. It's a film my mum would watch relentlessly. A film I hated as it just wasn't very good. When I asked for some Halloween book recommendations my friend urged me to read this one. I picked it up although I had my doubts when I discovered the book was based on it. I know I always share why I decide to read a book and it's usually not relevant. In this case it is though as I had to push my memories of the film out of my head in order to read the book. Or at the very least try not to let my dislike of it prejudice my view of the book.
The book actually has a very different tone. It's set in the late 50's and the characters in the book actually had a very different feel to those in the film for that reason alone. We immediately feel for Eleanor who has spent most of her life caring for her mother. She takes this offer to Hill House as a way to get out the house of her selfish sister and her husband. For her sake I wanted her to keep driving round America rather than to end the journey she was enjoying so much at Hill House. I was so relieved for her when she quickly fit in to the group and found a niche for herself. A relief that the character felt herself. As the book continues though that niche isn't as secure as it first seemed. Either by Eleanor's doing or by the people around her. Maybe as her neediness showed the other characters were put off by it and in the end pitied her.
What I really think though is that it's the house. We know as soon as Eleanor arrives at the village that there is something wrong with house. The people are strange and uncommunicative. Then the people caring for the house are exactly the same. Possibly the house has seeped into all of these people. Eleanor herself is afraid as soon as she arrives at the house. As the book continues the house is found to be creepier. Doors that won't stay open, noises in the night and an unexplained cold spot not to mention the dark decor and forbidding decor. The blurb of the book says that the house wanted to claim one of it's guests as their own. I think it seeped into the guests and deliberately gave Eleanor that feeling of being an outcast again. Through out the book she continually reached out to people only to be shrugged off.
The book didn't seem particularly scary or creepy at first. There were a few dark moments such as Eleanor's arrival at the house but the mood of the book was quickly brightened again with the arrival of more people. This just added to the build up because I hit the half way mark and I was extremely glad that I was reading it during the day. In fact I managed to finish it during the day too so no sleepless nights for me (fingers crossed).
A fantastic book which I am glad I read. It goes back to that view of the film never matching up to the book. In this case I am thankful of it.