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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House

Part of the Penguin Modern Classics Series
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From the title you might imagine that this novel would be the most conventional of haunted house stories, but a line on page one suggests the true flavour of the chills to come: “Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within…”. That “not sane” is the key.

From there we are back to the usual sort of premise. The lonely Eleanor is invited by psychic investigator Dr Montague to join a small group to stay for the summer in the notoriously haunted Hill House. At a loose end and seeking companionship Eleanor joins the small group. Things soon start to go awry. Rustlings and fleeting shapes in the beautiful grounds, sounds where there should be quiet in the ugly rooms Jackson expertly weaves a steadily building sense of dread and darkness around the house.

But tellingly Eleanor and the others in the group have brought their own darkness with them. Eleanor’s life was far from happy before she came to Hill House and you can’t run away from your life.

The Haunting of Hill House is the most psychological of ghost stories. Jackson knows that we carry our fears inside us and her novel leaves you profoundly unsure of where ghosts really come from. There are few shocks in the book but Jackson’s clever, understated and insidious prose ensures its horrors creep up on you and stay with you long after you finish the book. The book has been filmed but neither version does it justice – this is extraordinary stuff. Fans of Stephen King and Michelle Paver? You have been warned – you are holding darkness within. ~ Simon Spanton

If you like Shirley Jackson you might also like to read books by Jeff VanderMeer.


The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson's stories are among the most terrifying ever written . (Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch and The Secret History). Four seekers have arrived at the rambling old pile known as Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of psychic phenomena; Theodora, his lovely assistant; Luke, the future inheritor of the estate; and Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past. As they begin to cope with horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead. For Hill House is gathering its powers - and soon it will choose one of them to make its own. Adapted into a film, The Haunting, starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson, The Haunting of Hill House is a powerful work of slow-burning psychological horror.


'Stepping into Hill House is like stepping into the mind of a madman; it isn't long before you weird yourself out' Stephen King

'An amazing writer ... If you haven't read We Have Always Lived in the Castle or The Haunting of Hill House or any of her short stories you have missed out on something marvellous' -- Neil Gaiman

'The world of Shirley Jackson is eerie and unforgettable ... She is a true master' -- A. M. Homes

'One of the twentieth century's most luminous and strange American writers -- Jonathan Lethem Her books penetrate keenly to the terrible truths which sometimes hide behind comfortable fictions, to the treachery beneath cheery neighborhood faces and the plain manners of country folk' -- Donna Tartt

'She is the finest master...of the cryptic, haunted tale' The New York Times Book Review

'A novel which at one stroke puts her unquestionably among the great masters of the genre ... as spine-chilling ... as anything Edgar Allan Poe dreamed up.' -- Peter Green Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson was born in an affluent suburb in California in 1916. At university in Syracuse, she met her husband, the future literary critic Stanley Edgar Hyman, with whom she had four children. In 1948 she published her iconic short story 'The Lottery' in The New Yorker, sparking furious letters from readers to the magazine. Her novels - most of which involve elements of horror and the occult - include The Road through the Wall, Hangsaman, The Bird's Nest, The Sundial, We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House. Shirley Jackson died in her sleep in 1965 at the age of 48.

Author photo © Hyman

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Book Info

Publication date

1st October 2009


Shirley Jackson

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Penguin Classics an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd


256 pages


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Horror & ghost stories



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