Review: The Haunting of Hill House

The Penguin Classics Cover

By Shirley Jackson

Available on: Amazon, Audible, Barnes and Noble.View all my reviews on Goodreads as they are available.

Trigger Warnings:

Bullying (Mentioned), Death, Drinking (Alcohol), Emotional Abuse, Mental Abuse, Mental Illness, Murder, Poor Coping Mechanisms, Self-Injury, Suicidal Thoughts, Suicide

Body Count: Technically only one during the story itself. But the house has devoured more lives than that.

The Specs:

  • Genre
  • Technical Genre: Horror, Classic Horror
  • Theo’s Genre: Horror, Spooktale
  • Page count: 
  • 242 pages, depending on edition
  • POV:
  • Unreliable 3rd Person
  • Publication information:
  • Paperback page count: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 1 edition (November 28, 2006)
  • Language:  English
  • ISBN-10: 0143134191
    • ISBN-13:

Other Fun Stuff:

To Read or Not To Read (Again):

Bedside Bookshelf Donated Furniture Support

Rating out of five: 2.5 out of 5

Representation and Sexism Tests:

Bechdel–Wallace Test: PASS!

Do two female characters talk about something than a male character?

Yes! They do!

DuVernay Test: FAIL

Are there fully actualized characters of color?

No there are not.

Ellen Willis Test: PASS

Would two related characters still work to carry the story if their genders were reversed?   YES NO

Mako Mori Test: PASS!

Is there a female character? YES

Does she get her own arc? YES

Does it do anything but support a man’s story? YES

Sexy Lamp Test: PASS

Would the plot fall apart if the female character was replaced by a sexy looking lamp?

It would absolutely fall apart.

Vito Russo Test: PASS

Is there a character on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum? Yes

Are they a character beyond their orientation? Absolutely.

Do they affect the plot? Greatly.

Overall review:

Thoughts

I can easily see why this is a classic. Eleanor, as unreliable as she is, sees much more than what is there. She is a mournful, nearly self-loathing puppet recently released from her mother’s controlling ways. Even in death, however, her mother so greatly shapes parts of her character and holds her back from doing things.

The smattering of bravery and rebellion that first gets Eleanor to Hill House’s doors also twists into a flashbang of a friendship with Theo. One bright spot of friendship quickly marred by the drastic differences between the two women. Luke, far less the cad he is so purported to be, seems to be sweet on them both.

With better ease than some, I can easily see why one might perceive the relationship between Theo and Eleanor to be one that smacks of Sapphic leanings. However, I think it is both far more simple and infinitely more complex than mere romance. “I’ve never been wanted anywhere,” were her own words. She wanted to be wanted, beyond the eleven years she spent at her mother’s beck and call. She, before succumbing to Hill House’s desires, latched onto the strange friendship with Theo with the voracity of a drowning woman might grab a liferaft.

In the end, the draw of Hill House came to a catastrophic end only a week after Eleanor first set eyes on it.

Favorite passage

I would have to honestly say that the opening/closing line seems to resound the loudest. The direct quote from the first and last pages is:

Hill House itself, not sane, stood against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, its wall 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.


Jackson, Shirley. The Haunting of Hill House. Penguin Books, 2018. Page 232

Was it engaging?

At times, but I also seemed to dislike Eleanor as much as she disliked herself.

Favorite Character:

I quite liked Luke; for all his faults he could apparently mix a good drink.

One thought on “Review: The Haunting of Hill House

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