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The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson, Laura Miller This is a buddy read in a super-secret group which I will not name for the fear of a fatal accident I will have if I do name it. However I will name the people involved: Licha, Anne, Steve, Jeff, Miriam, Stepheny, Delee, Dan, Dan 2, Alissa, Tadiana, Ginger, Kristin, Christopher, and Kelly. Speaking about Kelly, I have no chances whatsoever to write a better review than hers, but the guy can still hope, can't he? Please let me know if I forgot somebody.

Let me put you in the right mood for the review with some images:

Haunted House 1

Haunted House 2

Haunted House 3

A couple of comments for the pictures above follow. All the depicted places are real. These real-life pictures are much scarier than the book.

Sorry about the following rant related to book blurbs. I saw blurbs that completely gave away the content the entire book, including the last page. I saw blurbs that had no connection whatsoever with the books they were supposed to describe. I saw blurbs related to the book somehow, but their writers had genres of literature mixed up in their heads - like a blurb appropriate for a romance novel on a hard science fiction one. This is probably the first case when the blurb was lying.

...a perfect work of unnerving terror. Ladies and gentlemen, there were scarier moments in classic Scooby-Doo cartoons than in here. There are a couple of creepy moments, but they are way too brief to be really scary.

I admit I have not seen the movies based on the novel and it might have affected my judgment. Then again what kind of book lover would I be had I allowed my perception of a movie change my opinion of its original material? I am sure every single book club would politely but firmly kicked me out in the street in such case.

I provide the brief description of the plot for people unfamiliar with the book and movies. A professor studying occult found what seemed to be the perfect haunted house to conduct his research in. He selected several people to help him in this undertaking - using a somewhat dubious selection criterion, I might add. The book is about - unsurprisingly - their experiences in the house. I will give you a hint: it is haunted. From my impression whatever haunts it is too lazy to do real good old-fashioned spooky stuff.

A big part of the appeal of spooky ghost stories is mysterious supernatural phenomenon; something which cannot be explained. For me the whole atmosphere of the book was killed the moment the Doctor tried to rationalize goings-on in the house and the explanation was believable enough for me to accept it. No mystery - no spookiness: it is simple as this.

A house itself was undeniably gloomy, but gloomy is not equal to scary in my book. Ms. Jackson seems to be confused about this. Please see Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake for the description of gloomy and scary place; I am not a big fan of the book, but he really nailed it in this department.

One feature which I noticed right away is the lack of description of the characters. All we know about the Doctor is that he is round, another character is lovely and we really have no clue whatsoever about the appearance of the POV character. Speaking about the latter, her development was somewhat unbelievable. Look into The Shining by Stephen King for a better example of the same themes - by the way I would be the first to admit King drew heavy inspiration from The Haunting of Hill House for his work.

The end was a little disappointing as well with one extremely brain-dead decision which ended up in a very predictable way. My verdict is the following: the novel is just OK, on the lower end of OK spectrum.

A lot of people that wrote glowing reviews for the novel said you need to be really smart to see all the nuances of the writing. To this I can only answer, "You now know my biggest darkest secret: I am as dumb as a hammer".