The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Classics)Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House, widely regarded as one of the finest scary stories ever written, is the story of Dr. John Montague, who brings together guests Theodora and Eleanor along with the home’s future owner Luke in the hopes that they can help him in his quest to find scientific evidence of the supernatural. Theodora and Eleanor are invited because they have experienced the paranormal before; of the many guests Dr. Montague invites, they alone accept. The guests quickly begin experiencing terrifying events, and Eleanor seems to be an especial target of the house. But is she becoming possessed by the house, or is she the cause of all the supernatural events herself?

I found this book a little difficult to get through because I didn’t really care for the characters. I think because Eleanor clearly has some psychological problems, and the third-person limited narration seemed to focus on her point of view, it could be difficult to tell what was really going on, and what Eleanor imagined. For instance, she has quite a few arguments with Theodora, and I’m still unsure all of them weren’t in her mind. She isn’t a very likable character—a sort of child. On the other hand, the writing is superb in some places, and Jackson has an excellent aptitude for evoking mood and describing setting. She is wonderful at characterization. Mrs. Montague and Arthur were hilarious. Even Eleanor is well-drawn in her way, but I’m wondering about Jackson’s attraction for grown women with child-like minds—We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which I never finished, has one, too. In the end of the book, it’s unclear exactly what happened, and the reader is left to interpret events. I will give this book a higher mark than I ordinarily give a book I kind of had to slog through simply because the writing was brilliant. I just really need a reason to care about the characters if I am going to enjoy a book, and I didn’t find one in this book.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Reading Update: November 14, 2010

Autumn leaves

I drove around a bend on the Interstate yesterday and the beauty of the golden, orange, and red leaves on the trees near the road arrested me. I love fall.

I’m still plugging away on The Haunting of Hill House, and I might even finish it today. Not really enjoying it much. Such a short book, and I really had to push to finish it. I just don’t like any of the characters, and it can be hard for me to read books when I don’t like the characters. Wuthering Heights seems to be the lone exception. I think the trick there is that I actually do have a fascination for the characters even if I wouldn’t want to be friends with them. In addition to not liking the characters, if I’m honest, I’m a little unsure about what in the world is going on.

I had a bit of a freak out yesterday when my Kindle‘s battery had absolutely no charge, and I needed to reference a book on it. Then I remembered I do have the Kindle app on my iPhone (and my Mac, for that matter). I think I have mentioned this before, but my NaNoWriMo novel is speculative fiction of the Irish legend of Deirdre. It’s going well. I wrote so much yesterday that I could skip a day now with no detrimental effect on being able to finish on time, but I’m going to try not to do that.

Next week I’ll be seeing some of my English teacher friends in Orlando as I travel to the NCTE conference. I will be presenting a session on authentic assessment in teaching Shakespeare along with the Folger Shakespeare Library’s education department, and I’m finished with writing my presentation. I want to try to practice it and see how it goes.

I listened to Valerie Jackson’s interview of Ken Follett, and doesn’t he sound absolutely charming? I definitely want to read his Pillars of the Earth series.

Ken Follett on Betweeen the Lines

I also listened to her interview of Stacy Schiff about her new book Cleopatra: A Life, and it sounds very interesting.

Stacy Schiff on Between the Lines

Valerie Jackson is a great interviewer. I definitely recommend subscribing to her podcast. It’s a great way to learn about new books.

photo credit: MaxiuB

Reading Update: November 7, 2010

Today was productive. Because of Daylight Saving Time ending, I woke up before 9:00 AM. On a Sunday. I was awake all by myself. I did some work on my instructional technology portfolio. I played around fruitlessly trying to manipulate an image to use as my placeholder “bookcover” for NaNoWriMo. I cooked French onion soup and fixed a Greek salad for supper. I read a little bit of my last issue of Newsweek. And I wrote about 2,000 words of my NaNo novel. You can keep up with my running total in the sidebar to the left (unless you’re in an RSS reader, in which case you can see it if you click over to the site). I have managed to meet or exceed my word count each day, but today’s writing was the hardest. I didn’t think it would be, but my main character went on her first real date with the guy she’s interested in, and they were wrong footed and awkward around each other. I didn’t realize they were going to be so difficult. Still the story is coming together. I am halfway interested in printing it at work tomorrow to see where I am, but I also don’t want to lose momentum.

I’m still reading The Haunting of Hill House. For a slim book, it sure is taking me a long time to finish. Probably because I’m also writing this month. I re-read the story of “The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu,” also known as “Deirdre of the Sorrows” in Early Irish Myths and Sagas yesterday. I downloaded that book on my Kindle because I don’t know where my paperback copy of the book is. Other than that, I haven’t read much this week.

The day has felt off all day because of the time change. I keep looking at the clock thinking it must be later than it is. When are we going to quit changing the time? Doesn’t make sense in our modern times to worry about extending daylight during the spring and summer. Does it? Or am I missing something?

photo credit: karina y

NaNoWriMo Participant

Reading (and NaNoWriMo) Update: October 31, 2010

NaNoWriMo ParticipantI’m participating in NaNoWriMo. I decided to just buckle down and make a decision. It should be interesting, as I really have no idea what I’ll be writing about. I have jotted down a few ideas for potential plots, but I haven’t committed to any yet. You can follow my progress here at my NaNo profile, or keep visiting me here to check my status meter.

I began reading The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson just in time for Halloween. I already love her descriptions and think I will continue to enjoy the book. I also had a change to begin listening to Jamaica Inn in the car yesterday. Du Maurier sure does write a good creep in Uncle Joss, doesn’t she?

Right now we’re putting the finishing touches on Halloween costumes. Maggie will be a black cat, and Dylan will be Harry Potter (again). However, since we only have the glasses and the wand, he’s going to be Harry on the run in Deathly Hallows rather than Hogwarts Harry.

And for Halloween, a fun poll:

What is your favorite Halloween candy?

  • Fun size Snickers (43%, 3 Votes)
  • Milk Duds (14%, 1 Votes)
  • Smarties (14%, 1 Votes)
  • Some other kind of chocolate bar (share in the comments if you like) (14%, 1 Votes)
  • Something else (share in the comments if you like) (14%, 1 Votes)
  • Candy Corn (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Sweet Tarts (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Nerds (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 7

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Happy Halloween, everyone!

jack o lanterns
photo credit: St0rmz