GUEST BOOK REVIEW by Romana Drew: The Haunting of Hill House

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Author: Shirley Jackson
Genre: Horror, Gothic
Publisher: The Penguin Group (Penguin Classics)
Publication Date: 11.28.2006 (1st published 10.16.1959)
Pages: 182

“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.”

I first read this book when I was twelve. Rereading it as an adult has given me a different perspective and greater appreciation for the book.

Kathy and I sat on my bed and read The Haunting of Hill House aloud. I read one chapter, and she read the next, I think. Memory can play tricks. Kathy wasn’t much interested in books. I may have read it to her? It really doesn’t matter. I read it while sitting on my bed when I was twelve.

As I started reading it this time, I realized that I didn’t remember the beginning or the ending, only that I was scared. Hill House was haunted and creepy. I was genuinely frightened about what might happen next but couldn’t stop reading.

I don’t think my twelve-year-old self realized that this book is so much more than just a scary story.

Dr. Montague invites several people to spend a summer with him in the supposedly haunted Hill House. Two women, Theodora and Elenore, accept. Luke, whose family owns the house, joins the party. Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, the daytime caretakers, complete the initial cast.

Dr. Montague is a thoughtful, careful researcher with a penchant for studying supernatural manifestations. Theodora is a free spirit looking for adventure. Luke is an ordinary young man here to keep an eye on the guests. But life has not been kind to Elenore. Lost, forgotten, and cast aside, Visiting Hill House is the only adventure she ever has, the only time she makes her own decisions.

The view from inside Elenore’s mind is often chilling. Some people are resilient. They can weather great tragedies or difficult living conditions, stay sane, and recover. Elenore isn’t one of those people.

Too many unexplained things happen at Hill House to make this just the ramblings of Elenore’s misfiring brain. Cold spots, things that go bump in the night, and shared hallucinations, suggest that Hill House itself has a mind or at least the ability to control the minds of its occupants.

This book was written in 1959 when men tended to dominate women. That attitude is well represented in The Haunting of Hill House. Neither Theodora nor Elenore see it as anything out of the ordinary. I doubt that my younger self noticed.

I think my younger self saw Elenore as being driven bonkers by Hill House. My older self sees her as a tragic and complex character deserving of understanding and sympathy.

The story develops slowly, taking plenty of time to flesh out the characters and set the scene before anything unexplained happens. The first manifestations are harmless, but the tension keeps building.

Hill House is dark, claustrophobic, and alive. If you visit, don’t stay after dark.

The book deserves its status as a classic. The Haunting of Hill House will leave you thinking about the house and the other characters for a long time.

Romana Drew is a retired park ranger. She lives in California with her husband where they raise baby squirrels for the wildlife care center she runs. When asked, she could go into detail about her background and education, but finds that to be rather boring. What she will say is that she is quiet and loves the outdoors. When she’s not drawing pictures, she writes about fictional worlds, aliens, and other fantastic things that her imagination pours into her mind.

Amazon Author Page

End of Innocence
Lenea’s brother spends every clear night pointing a telescope at the same stars. When she confronts him, he lets her look through the telescope. A small sliver speck changes course, slows, and merges with a larger silvery spot.

In that brief moment, her life changes. Her brother spies on space aliens! Soon she learns the aliens have a settlement in the Kenned Valley, and that her boyfriend monitors their communications.

What do they want, and can her world survive?

The Marauders of Sazile
Aliens, called Hocalie, come to Earth, cute, furry, and apparently harmless. They didn’t even bring weapons. They say they’re searching for one person to represent Earth at the Intergalactic Trade Center on Rosat. The right person.

Thousands of people apply. Earth’s governments vie to get their representatives picked. The Hocalie listen to all the suggestions. Then they choose Robin Mayfield, a young artist. Only after they are in space, and it is too late to turn back, do they tell Robin why they picked her. The Hocalie believe that only she can stop an intragalactic war. But they won’t tell her how she is supposed to do that.

No one knows who the Marauders are or why they are attacking different worlds. They appear out of nowhere to attack then disappear just as fast. They never make any effort to communicate and never respond to any form of communication.

The Marauders of Sazile is a fast-paced space adventure. The Hocalie are ever so gentle, but clever enough to hold their own against even the worst enemy. The Langons are technologically advanced but arrogant, self-centered, and domineering. The Marauders only want their world back.

Throughout her adventures, Robin keeps a journal. She also draws pictures of the people and places she visits. The Marauders of Sazile is Robin’s Journal. Some of her illustrations are included.

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