Reading Diary: Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House’

Reading Diary: Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House’
Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House." Book cover: Penguin Random House.

“The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson is a Readers’ Pick for this month’s Ballerina Book Club picks. Join in on the discussion by signing up for our newsletter.

On reading beautiful passages and preparing to be frightened by Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House”

I blazed my way through the highly suspenseful and romantic “Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and now I’m switching gears as I dive into Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House.” I’ve been hearing about this book for ages, and immediately, I’m blown away by the gorgeous prose. Have I ever read a more perfect first sentence than: “No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream”?

I love the clue-like setup of four strangers, with little in common, converging at a haunted house. I had to read this passage written about Eleanor as she journeys to Hill House over and over to savor its beauty: “The notion of dividing her lovely journey into miles and hours was silly; she saw it … as a passage of moments, each one new, carrying her along with them, taking her down a path of incredible novelty to a new place. The journey of herself was a positive action, her destination vague, unimagined, perhaps nonexistent.”

Perhaps incongruously, this passage made me think of performing — the elusive but incomparable feeling of being totally in the moment, just experiencing and living, unfettered by self-consciousness or thoughts of the future. I’ve always thought of this as the ideal state to attain in both performance and life.

So far in my reading, nothing too creepy has happened, but I’m looking forward to seeing what mysteries unfold at Hill House. The cover is already scaring the living daylights out of me.

Wishing everyone a recharging weekend and happy/scary reading!

Bonus: Looking for something to listen to while reading? We recommend putting on the soundtrack for “The Haunting of Hill House” television adaptation. 

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