THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE
I thought We Have Always Lived in the Castle was a 5-star read, so imagine my surprise that I couldn’t connect with this book, written three years prior by troubled soul Shirley Jackson. It’s a bit of classic, and no less than 13 of my friends on Goodreads have read this as well, 12 of them rate it positively, most whip out even 4 or 5 stars.
It started out alright, but when Eleanor Vance arrives at the strange old mansion in the hills, things soon become a bit boring. I felt Jackson managed to convey the psychological horror much better in Castle.
I can’t fully put my finger on it, but I think my main issue was the tone in which Hill House was written. There’s a faux objectivism in the scientific endeavor of Dr. Montague’s semi-paranormal research that felt a bit flat, as it was echoed in Jackson’s tone. Add to that a certain detached irony in Jackson’s narrative voice: that irony made it so that the story didn’t feel real to me. As a result, I became less and less engaged with the characters, and also the house itself gradually lost its attraction, to the point I simply didn’t care anymore, making me stop at the halfway point.
Another thing that killed it for me was the fact that the proceedings were fairly obvious, the story fairly transparant in its method – admittedly also because I read some reviews upfront. Jackson sets up a creepy environment – via a house that has a geometry that is slightly off and a history of suicide, etc. – and in that environment the main character can then start her descent into madness. I didn’t feel there was much mystery in that.
Jackson didn’t convince me during the first half that there was enough of interest to pursue Eleanor’s mental journey, even though I feel she did manage to make her an interesting character, at least at first, when she brakes free from her sister.
I’m truly disappointed, I expected a lot after the triumph that was We Have Always Lived in the Castle.