This is my first official selection for Carl's RIP III challenge. I had originally included Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy in my pool of titles, which I read and reviewed last week. However, after reading it, I decided not to include it in my RIP III challenge because I didn't really like it. I know that shouldn't matter, but I don't want to include any books that I don't like in this challenge. Since I only committed to reading two books and I've got until October 31, I have plenty of time to change my mind if I want to.
Now, on to The Haunting of Hill House. This is the perfect book for this challenge. It's deliciously dark and spooky. It's not blood and guts horror. According to the introduction of the Penguin Classics edition that I read, it is considered a psychological ghost story. I have to admit that I think that designation is spot on. The book deals with the terror that can often come from our own mind. There are four main characters, which include Dr. Montague, "an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of psychic phenomena;" Luke who is in line to inherit Hill House; Theodora, a young woman who doesn't reveal much about her private life; and Eleanor Vance. Eleanor has taken the car she shares with her sister and fled to Hill House without letting anyone know where she's going. Eleanor lives with her sister, sleeping on a cot in the baby's room, following the death of their mother. Eleanor spent over a decade caring for her mother who showed no affection or care for Eleanor whatsoever. In fact, Eleanor feels as though she's never belonged anywhere and has never really been loved by anyone.
Eleanor has a very rich interior life, which the reader has access to throughout the book. On her way to Hill House, she indulges multiple fantasies about what her life could be like. She envisions herself living in an enclosed garden and in a large house with lion statues guarding the front of the house. The reader gets the sense early on that Eleanor is in a fragile emotional state, but she's not crazy.
Everyone expects this to be a fun escape from their everyday lives. However, things soon turn serious when Hill House begins to show its true colors. Jackson does such a good job of building suspense and a sense of foreboding as the novel progresses. As the unexplained continues to happen, Eleanor begins to question herself and the other inhabitants of Hill House. The line between reality and the supernatural is blurred to say the least. The reader senses Eleanor's struggle to figure out what's going on around her. At one point, she wonders why the others can hear what's happening when it's going on inside her head.
I won't say more for fear of ruining this for any of you haven't read it. Let me just say that it's a great book and absolutely perfect for this challenge. I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Jackson, which I really liked, as well. I'd be hard pressed to decide which I liked best.