Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Fiction Review: The Haunting of Hill House

Although I read dark and creepy books throughout September and October for #RIPXV Challenge, I saved one in particular for Halloween week: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This was the first Jackson novel I've read, and it was the perfect choice for the season--the ultimate spooky haunted house story!

Dr. Montague is a scholar with a PhD who studies supernatural occurrences, though much of his work incurs only derision from his colleagues. He comes up with a plan to look for the most haunted house he can find, and invite people to stay there who have previously experienced some sort of paranormal event. That way, he can document and report on psychic phenomena with solid corroborated evidence. He sends out a dozen letters, but in the end, only two people accept his strange invitation. Eleanor is a timid young woman who has spent her life taking care of her thankless mother, who recently died. Her older sister now controls every aspect of Eleanor's life, so she is filled with joy and excitement to be on her own for the summer, as she drives to Hill House. Theodora (Theo) is Eleanor's opposite: full of confidence and girlish enthusiasm, pretty and playful. The two young women bond as if they were at summer camp together. Finally, the family that now owns Hill House insists that a family representative be present, so a young man named Luke joins the group. This is Luke's first visit to the infamous house, though he stands to inherit it some day. He joins in with the party atmosphere, bantering with the girls. That first night, in front of a fire, Dr. Montague fills them in on the dark history of the house, though they could each feel its inherent evil as they drove up, saw it, and entered it for the first time. The group spends their days acting like they are on summer vacation, and their nights ... well, you'll have to read it for yourself to find out!

I'd heard this is a wonderful spooky classic, but it surpassed my expectations. Shirley Jackson has a real talent for not only telling a good (scary) story but also for her beautiful writing. She brings the characters and setting to life with her words, and lightens the dark, ominous tone with a great sense of humor. The more I think about the novel, the more I realize what a brilliant piece of fiction it is; I just picked up my copy to check back for a detail and came across a passage in the middle that, having now finished the book, I realize is a perfect, chilling foreshadowing. The story is every bit as scary and suspenseful as I'd been told, with a growing tension right from the beginning. The ending took me by surprise but was perfect when I thought about it. I loved reading The Haunting of Hill House, especially at the end of October, and I can't wait to read more of Jackson's books and short stories. And now I want to watch the Netflix adaptation, too!

182 pages, Penguin Classics

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.


Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, of Dr. Montague choosing his candidates, and/or download it from Audible.


You can purchase The Haunting of Hill House from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit


You can also buy through indie bookstores using Bookshop.



Or you can order The Haunting of Hill House from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. You are way braver than I am for reading all these spooky books; I get too freaked out!

    1. This is one of the spookier books I've read!