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The Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson

Overall: 9
Readability: 9
Intelligence: 8

A curious professor of the occult invites 3 guests (all of whom have a history of psychic phenomena) to spend the summer in an ugly, abandoned old mansion called Hill House in an effort to find solid evidence for "haunting". Jackson, best known for her short story, The Lottery, cleverly executes this rather standard plot with a creepy, brooding atmosphere that makes for some genuinely scary moments. Right from the start, the first paragraph, you know Hill House is trouble. Her elegant prose is able to evoke fear with simple descriptions of inexplicable noises and bumps in the darkly ominous night. It subtly suggests, but never really exposes what is really going on.

And when I say fear, I don't mean the jumpy, shocking or revolting kind; I mean industrial strength psychological fear that makes it hard to go to sleep at night. It sticks with you, makes you paranoid. Suddenly, your home doesn't feel so safe; common sounds are amplified and shadows seem to be growing around you.

Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House is deserving of all the praise, critical and popular, that it gets and is unquestionably among the finest horror novels ever written. If you're looking to scare yourself to sleep, I highly recommend this one.

The Lottery: Jackson's controversial and famous short story Buy it here!

first paragraph: "No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids ar supposed, by some, to dream. 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. Within, walls 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."
page 34: "No human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice.
repeated often: "Journeys end in lovers meeting"

Further Discussion:
• What does the first paragraph of the book tell you? (see quote above)
• Who/what was responsible for what happened at the house?
• "Journeys end in lovers meeting" - Who were the lovers?

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