Staff Picks: The Haunting of Hill House

Reviewed by Anna M., Materials Handler

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is also available as a CloudLibrary ebook.

Lifelong Learning

The Haunting of Hill House, written by Shirley Jackson in 1959, is one of the most critically acclaimed haunted house stories. I first read the novel during my freshman year of college for an English course, and it quickly became my favorite book of all time. Searching through CloudLibrary, I was excited to see that Jackson’s debut novel was available. Rereading The Haunting of Hill House has given me a newfound appreciation and perspective for the story, and I hope others will take advantage of the library’s online resources and read Jackson’s novel.

Exploring the misadventures of four strangers who come together at the notoriously haunted Hill House, The Haunting of Hill House delves deep into human relationships and how fear influences the mind. Dr. Montague, an anthropologist who is fascinated by the occult, sought out three strangers who had been touched by the paranormal. His mission was to prove whether or not the paranormal was real, and he hoped adding three people who previously had supernatural experiences would heighten his chances of experiencing unearthly activity. He amassed three adults: Theo, a witty go-getter who stayed at Hill House as a means to escape from a fight with her roommate; Luke, the spoiled and future owner of Hill House; and Eleanor, a fearful dreamer who finds magic and happiness in unlikely places. Together, Dr. Montague, Theo, Luke, and Eleanor’s relationships with each other and their understanding of reality is tested and put to their breaking point. The Haunting of Hill House is more than a ghost story. Instead, it’s a story about relationships, the human mind and will, and the desire to belong and be loved.

Jackson’s beautiful prose and ability to build meaningful character development while also blurring the lines between the paranormal and the psychological creates a one-of-a-kind thriller that has inspired multiple adaptations, including a Netflix series that is praised for its cinematography and storyline. Her work also influenced a plethora of gothic horror writers who, after reading Jackson’s novel, began to focus on the terror aspect of ghost stories instead of relying solely on horror to evoke a variety of emotions in the readers. To this day, The Haunting of Hill House remains one of the best literary ghost stories and continues to prove its status as a must-read. 

This is review is part of the Finding Value series, inspired by the eleven core values central to the Library's mission. Tune in as Library staff review books and movies that highlight the values accessibility, civil discourse, inclusiveness, integrity, intellectual freedom, lifelong learning, literacy, respect, safety, service, and stewardship.