For the challenge:
Recommendation found at:
From: the library
In a nutshell:
A professor researching the paranormal invites several guests to participate in the study of a purportedly haunted house, Hill House. The group consists of the professor, two women with some past paranormal experiences, and a young man related to the house’s owners. It doesn’t take too long for eerie things to start happening in Hill House and to start affecting the dynamic of this group of strangers.
I loved that the library copy of this book was old, worn and a bit stained. It helped with the atmosphere of this unsettling tale.
Although the story is told in the third-person, the reader’s point of view is mostly limited to that of Eleanor, a lonely woman who has just spent the last decade of her life tending to her ailing mother. The book introduces her memorably:
Eleanor Vance was thirty-two years old when she came to Hill House. The only person in the world she genuinely hated, now that her mother was dead, was her sister. She disliked her brother-in-law and her five-year-old niece, and she had no friends.
As the reader, one spends quite a bit of time in Eleanor’s head. Out of all the main characters, she is the one most vulnerable, the weakest, and also perhaps the oddest. It was often awkward if not uneasy to be in her mind. I sympathized with Eleanor and even identified with her at moments, but then she would think or say something just a bit off. This perspective lends a certain unsteadiness to the narrative. Thus things are already off kilter even before Hill House starts terrorizing its inhabitants.
Jackson takes it slow with the creepiness at first. The characters exchange wit and get friendly and familiar with each other. I love that the wit persists throughout the novel, as it throws the creepy bits into even starker relief. At first it is simple things like: doors never stay open in Hill House. The house is designed to disorient its guests and keep them in darkness.
The guests’ exploration of the disused nursery is when the house starts to appear truly sinister. And then that night, the two women wake to find that something is seeking them out. I won’t go into details, but even though I was sitting in a sunlit room, I felt shivery.
The professor tells the history of the house near the beginning of their stay, and though there is no neat parallel between the house’s past and the present-day characters, there is some delicious suggestion of connection and parallels. Are the characters behaving like the estranged sisters of Hill House’s past, who grew up “like mushrooms in the dark”? Or maybe someone is like that old woman’s companion, convinced of a nightly thief and intruder, herself accused of a grasping nature?
I like that the book is more suggestive than explanatory. Creepiness is intensified when not everything is answered in the end. Was it really a dog that Luke and the professor chased out of the house? What followed Theo and Eleanor into that clearing?
I was slightly disappointed in the ending, feeling that the final climactic event was not quite the payoff I wanted after all the effective eerie atmosphere. The very last phrase however, a repetition from the novel’s beginning passage, has acquired an extra meaning it didn’t have before and I liked that.
So far, a great start to the RIP Challenge.