It all starts when Dr Montague wishes to investigate a so called haunted house : Hill house. As a man of science he wants to lead a scientific study and maybe explain with logic and data the weird phenomenon happening in the house. He then decides to rent the house and he invites along with the future heir to the house - a rather superficial and annoying Luke- two other guests and “subjects” : Eleanor and Theo, whom presumably have experienced paranormal phenomenons in the past. The story doesn’t start right away with the house, we travel with Eleanor, through Eleanor’s eyes and mind who’s driving following diligently the doctor’s itinerary to Hill house.
Although we can’t wait for the action to begin, we are intrigued by Eleanor herself. She’s a thirty-two years old young woman who spent her whole life taking care of her sick mother whom she genuinely hates along with her sister, until her recent death (the mom not the sister). She’s a lonely person, filled with vivid imagination, who can’t help making up stories and trying desperately to belong.
And then we arrive at Hill house. “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.” Nothing worth mentioning happens at first (just some doors shutting back closed and some banging at night). The suspense keeps building up the entire half of the book. It was nerve-racking because we know something bad will happen, must happen. It’s a horror story after all! And then, it suddenly gets dark and terrifying and the ending is almost heartbreaking.
I love that the story was not all focused on the gore action, instead the pace is set to get to know the characters better, their coping mechanisms and their sarcasm that give a funny quirky tone to their exchanges. We never get bored and although we have the troops of an ordinary ghost story (the banging, the whispers, the voices, the appearances, etc), this is no ordinary way to tell it.
I enjoyed the brilliant writing of S. Jackson. It certainly requires talent to be able to dissect the characters’ psychology in such a subtle prose. The truth is so slippery that we are left wondering. We can’t decide if Hill house is really haunted. Maybe it’s all in Eleanor’s sick mind —she does entertain a weird relationship with the house, a strong overwhelming sense of belonging that only make her appear insane, or maybe the damn house is just ill constructed with all the wrong angles ans shapes that nothing stays still and silent. Anyhow, the mystery remains.