“Makes your blood chill and your scalp prickle. . . Shirley Jackson is the master of the haunted tale.”

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

What a hell of a book…
I admit I am in a bit of a fix here. I’d like as many people as possible to read this book, but at the same time I am strangely reluctant to talk about it. Words can only destroy the subtle charm emanating from these pages, and I’m not exaggerating… But I will try anyway.

I only knew Shirley Jackson from her short stories, above all, “The Lottery”. That she had also written novels, I was only dimly aware of. Not so long ago, searching for some classic October and Halloween reading in our Facebook group, this book was finally recommended to me. And I was not disappointed.

The greatest surprise for me was its humour! Yes, I can only describe it as dark, black, weirdly funny humour! Four people (later on six) gathered in one approved “Haunted House”. And everyone trying to cheer the others up, or to deflect attention from his or her own fears. Jokes and snide remarks abound throughout the book. Not to forget the hilarious and prim housekeeper, Mrs. Dudley… she had me grab the next handkerchief more than once…!

The next remarkable aspect about this book was its psychology. In a certain way, it is a brilliant study on the human mind. How do we react to fear? What happens if four wildly different characters are confronted with the inexplicable? Can you put a name to what has really no name? What is evil? And what is fear itself?

Concerning the plot, I really don’t want to say too much. Just this: I had certain suspicions concerning the ending. There is one rather weak person we all suspect will bend under the constant psychological stress. And yet I was thunderstruck by what he or she did in the end… Hill House has had its satisfaction.

But this is not a gory book at all, neither mere spine-thrilling fiction. It is written in a remarkable language, somewhere between lyrical aphorism, diary entry and case study. I cannot describe it any better, I’m sorry! I can only say that this book has surpassed all my expectations. I will certainly read it again from time to time.

 

 

Reviewed by:

Rumble-Bee

Added 16th November 2015

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