The Haunting of Hill House is commonly described as one of the best horror novels ever written. I couldn't disagree more. The story was slow, the horror was sparse, and the ending was bland. I haven't read too many books written after the 1930's but I decided to give this one a try due to me being on a gothic horror trip. The vocabulary is very elementary. This doesn't necessarily make a novel bad. It is actually very easy to read. I will admit that while the book contains a limited vocabulary, Shirley Jackson did a very good job in her simplistic descriptions. This is proof to me that a book doesn't need to be fluffed with complicated and unique vocabulary to be magnetic.
The book wasn't bad, but I don't think it was very good. It was... well, okay. The protagonist was called Eleanor, an insecure and emotionally fragile woman that has thus lived a simple and lonely life. Her emotional fragility quickly becomes instability as she spends more nights in the infamous Hill House. She seems to suffer from a bipolar disorder in the very least as she meets Theodora, a lovely young woman who she fancies one moment and would like to see murdered in another.
The dialog is overall very realistic, more so than most books I have read. On the other hand, oddly, at times very unrealistic. The women bicker and are often sarcastic and vindictive but within the same paragraph, they become very cordial, understanding, and affectionate. Anecdotally I find this to be realistic. What I don't find realistic are the reactions to the paranormal events. The girls often nervously laugh at these events and the diaglog in the morning is calm and collected. No one takes the event seriously and they usually aren't spoke of again.
The hauntings are sparse but well described. Nothing tangible is ever seen though. Knocks are heard and laughter reverberates through the halls and rooms. Footsteps creak upon the wooden floors and mumbling shakes the fragile Victorian walls. There is one night when a ghostly but realistic family is seen having a picnic and Eleanor sees everything as if it were daytime. Theodora sees something much more horrific, but it is never detailed. She simply states "The children... and a puppy...". Perhaps she saw the empty-eyed ghosts of what use to be children and a puppy.
The story ends when Eleanor is forced to go home due to her odd and reckless behavior. She decides that instead of going home she would rather idiotically plow her car into a tree and kill herself, horrifying all of her newly acquired friends. This, of course, causes everyone to vacate the house early. Nothing substantial ever comes from the trip. That is the end... really. I at least expected Eleanor to be described wondering the halls as a ghastly dripping eidolon forever dancing contently knowing that she was finally permanently somewhere she really belonged.
I rate this book a 3 out of 5. It kept me interested enough to make it to the end because I constantly desired something big to happen but nothing ever did. The book ended rather abruptly and disappointingly. Shirley Jackson surely had the writing skills to describe very ominous and frightening events but never did.