The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
No one who’s read Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” is likely to forget it anytime soon: even sixty-five years after its explosive debut, the narrative of sinister small-town ritualism retains an impressive staying power that makes it as jarring to modern readers as it was to its original audiences. Shirley Jackson draws on the same arsenal of subtly suspenseful plot devices in her 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House, in which the scarred and unstable Eleanor Vance joins a research party to live in a crumbling Victorian mansion for the summer. Part Edgar Allen Poe and part Henry James, this psychological ghost story isn’t quite a horror novel, at least not in the Stephen King sense; its terror, as in “The Lottery,” is so understated that the full force of the book’s scariest scenes isn’t likely to manifest itself until days after you’ve read them. (From what I’ve heard, Jackson’s last novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, ramps up this creepiness to an even more intense and chilling pitch.) For a haunted-house story, this novel is very strong, and rates only one notch below “The Lottery” in its quality and spine-tingling effect.
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