The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House: Shirley Jackson's novel became a classic of the horror genre and from which they took a Netflix TV series.

Hi girls and boys! How are you?

I saw on Netflix “Hill House” a TV series about a haunted house and a family that is destroyed by this house. I really liked the TV series, despite the fact that it is creepy and I never see horror movies or TV series, because I am a loving coward. Since this TV series is a retelling of Shirley Jackson’s novel “The Haunting of Hill House”, I decided to read the book.

The Haunting of Hill House

Title: The Haunting of Hill House

Author: Shirley Jackson

Publishing House: Adelphi Edizioni

Genre: horror

Pages: 233

1st ed. original: 1959

1st ed. Italian: 1979

Cover price:  8,38 € – Amazon purchase link

Back cover

«In this authentic classic of the gothic genre, Eleanor Vance, a young and tormented woman who never remembers having been happy in her whole life, is hired by the sinister Professor Mountague, an aspiring ghost hunter, for an experimental stay at Hill House. ..Jointed to destination, Eleanor is in front of a house “that seemed to have taken shape on its own, assembling itself in that mighty scheme independent of the masons”; a building that “raised its imposing head against the sky without concessions to humanity; a construction immune from any exorcism: “a place not suited to men, nor to love, nor to hope”; a house that refuses to be a welcoming home just as Eleanor would like to escape a way of life that has only brought her unhappiness ».

Tommaso Pincio

Author

Shirley Jackson, born in San Francisco in 1916, died in 1965 in North Bennington, the village of Vermont where she had landed twenty years earlier in the wake of her professor husband. From her life in that village the ideas for the hostile were born, the sinister community adumbrated in The Lottery (1949, Adelphi 2007) and We have always lived in the castle(1962, Adelphi 2009). Of her, Adelphi also published Paranoia (2018). The Haunting of Hill House first came out in 1959 and two films were made: The Haunting (1963) by Robert Wise, with Julie Harris, Richard Johnson and Claire Bloom, and The Haunting(1999) by Jan de Bont , with Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta Jones and Owen Wilson.

Incipit

«No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.»

Synopsis

The novel begins with Professor Montague, a graduate in anthropology and passionate about paranormal phenomena, who decides to rent Hill House, a notoriously “haunted” house to study. For his studies the professor decides to hire the assistants who are appropriately contacted by letter: Eleonora Vance, a girl who was the protagonist of a poltergeist phenomenon as a child, Theodora, a reckless and nonconformist girl and Luke Sanderson, one of the family and heir of the house.

The protagonist is Eleanor Vance, a thirty-two year old woman who after having cared for her mother for years, lives with her sister and brother-in-law after her death. However, she doesn’t get along very well with them and Mr. Montague’s invitation marks an act of rebellion and liberation for her, so she steals her sister’s car and arrives at Hill House. Staying in this house puts a strain on her mental health. Eleanor alternates her sweet and tender character with jealous attacks against Theodora and Luke.

The house was built with a series of inaccuracies and inclinations that give rise to a series of bizarre phenomena: the sudden closure of doors, vertigo due to optical games, etc. A series of paranormal phenomena also occur: a writing on the wall that calls Eleanor, voices, presences, noises.

The situation gets worse with Mr. Montague’s wife arriving at Hill House with her friend Arthur. The woman, who is very different from her husband, does not have a rational approach to paranormal phenomena and is believed to be a medium, in fact she carries with her a planchette to try to get in touch with the presence of the house. The woman accuses Eleanor of distracting these presences.

Eleanor goes crazy one night and starts banging on the doors and climbs the shabby stairs of the library, putting her life at risk. This episode drives Montague, Theodora and Luke to decide to send away Eleanor. Nevertheless Eleanor now considers Hill House her home, she thinks the house wants her, she has no place to go since she stole her sister’s car and no longer has a home after her mother’s death. So Eleanor leaving Hill House, takes the car and deliberately decides to crash into a tree, dying. Professor Montague and his assistants decide to leave the house. After his article on the phenomena that occurred at Hill House, the professor decides to abandon any research activity.

The book concludes with the same words with which it had begun.

Opinions

The novel is an elegant horror, there is no room for splatter scenes. Everything is built in an allusive and never explicitly explicit way. The conclusion presents an ending open to different interpretations: it is possible that Eleanor already unstable psychologically goes mad and kills herself and the phenomena that occur are a suggestion due to the type of construction of the house and the gloomy atmosphere. Thus there is a rational spy of events. Instead, if one believes in the presences in the house, being Eleanor the most suggestible, the presences have called her to herself. Another interpretation is that Eleanor is the same presence that haunts the house, thus canceling space-time from the beginning to the end of the novel.

I liked the story a lot even though I was expecting a completely different ending. After reading the book I can safely say that I liked the TV series more. The novel has a much calmer trend than the TV series.

 

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