Tag Archives: Horror

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Penguin Classic, New York, 2006

From my book shelves.

As an adolescent I watched The Haunting on television several times.  It gave me nightmares.

Welcome to Hill House, a place with a reputation for being “unwelcoming”, if not haunted.  Dr Montague, an academic doing research on the paranormal, has invited Eleanor, a young woman who had some experience with poltergeists as a child, his assistant Theodora and Luke, a young man set to inherit the mansion, to spend some time is this unusual house hoping to find scientific evidence of a haunting.  Unfortunately the house doesn’t seem all that welcoming.  The haunting is not so much generated by spirits as it is generated by the house itself.

No human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a manic juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows and a touch of glee in the eyebrow of a cornice. From page 34.

The four of them stood, for the first time, in the wide, dark entrance of Hill House.  Around them the house steadied and located them, above them the hills slept watchfully, small eddies of air and sound and movement stirred and waited and whispered, and the center of consciousness was somehow the small space where they stood, four separate people, and looked trustingly at one another.  From page 58.

These four stay in the house and wonder at its strangeness.  Doors close by themselves, rooms seem to move about and there are places that are very, very cold.  It doesn’t take long for them to discover what they are searching for  It is the atmosphere in, and around the house and the often strained dynamic between the characters, that heightens the creepiness as we read.  We learn early on just how psychologically and emotionally  fragile Eleanor is.   It is no surprise that Hill House chooses to seeks her out.

     Eleanor felt, as she had the day before, that the conversation was being skillfully guided away from the thought of fear, so very present in her own mind.  Perhaps she was to be allowed to speak occasionally  for all of them so that , quieting her, they quieted themselves and could leave the subject behind them; perhaps, vehicle for every kind of fear, she contained enough for all.  They are like children, she thought crossly,daring each other to go first, ready to turn and call names at whoever comes last; she pushed her plate away from her and sighed. From pages 98/99.

I had never read this book before, am in awe of Jackson’s writing and find it one of the most chilling, psychologically unnerving novels I’ve read in a long time.  It is Jackson’s subtle sense of menace that makes this a scary read, along with her ability to worm the reader in to her characters’  heads.  Absolutely lovely, in it’s way, and perfect for my final R.I.P. VII read.

     Sipping, not warmed, Eleanor thought, We are in the eye of the storm, there is not much more time.  She watched Luke carefully carry a glass of brandy over to the doctor and hold it out, and then, without comprehending, watched the glass slip through Luke’s fingers to the floor as the door was shaken, violently and silently.  Luke pulled the doctor back, and the door was attacked without a sound, seeming almost to be pulled away from its hinges, almost ready to buckle and go down,leaving them exposed.  Backing away, Luke and the doctor waited, tense and helpless.  From page 201.

Thanks to Carl V. and all the participants of RIP VII. The links to other reviews are here.  R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril is one of my very favorite reading experiences of the year.

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Filed under Books, Horror, R.I.P. VII, Thoughts

Scare Us…

I just read a wonderful post on Neil Gaiman’s blog about a scary story he has recorded on Audible for All Hallow’s Read.  The story is free but if you download it they will donate $1.00 to charity.

The free download runs through Halloween.  The donations run through Halloween. Go here  if you are in the US, here if you are in the UK.  Download it, listen,  but make sure the lights are on….

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Filed under Audible, Scary, Stories

The Graveyard Book – Week Three

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Illustrated by Dave McKean

HarperCollins, New York, 2008

From my book shelves.  Organized by Carl V, Week 3 of our read-along covers chapters 7 and 8 of Neil Gaiman’s Newbury, Carnegie, Hugo and Locus award-winning novel.   It has been a joy reading along with others and seeing their thoughts.  Please visit Carl’s blog for links to other posts about this deeply felt, wonderfully written book.

In Chapter 8 Silas is drawn away from The Graveyard but refuses to tell Bod where he is going or what he is doing.  Bod’s friend, Scarlett, returns from Glasgow and finds herself in a place that seems awfully familiar.  She is befriended by a nice man, Mr Frost, who takes rubbings of gravestones.   With his encouragement she  eventually discovers Bod’s family history, but this discovery has unintended results.

Bod finally learns about his past, about The Man Jack and his organization, and is faced with a difficult decision.  The choice he makes puts Scarlett in extreme danger and she cannot understand it and cannot forgive him for it.  He looses his friend, and is at a loss understanding why.

In Chapter 9 Bod enters young adulthood and begins to change, finding it harder and harder to see his friends and loved ones.  Eventually he must leave The Graveyard and journey into the wider world.

The Graveyard Book is all about growing up, be it in a normal family or a ghostly one.  We make choices, face the consequences and hopefully grow wiser with each of these steps.  If we are lucky we live in a circle of love, amid friends and family who support us, even when we make bad decisions.

Neil Gaiman states in his acknowledgements that he read Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book over and over as a child and as an adult.  This is a book I love and read-aloud to elementary-aged children.  I can see the resemblance, but Gaiman has created a world of his own, filled with wonderful, caring, sometimes strict beings who surround and support Bod as he grows and finally leaves his home.  Maybe someday we will learn about his adventures in the world of the living.

There is a balance between gentleness and horror in this book.  A balance Neil Gaiman holds brilliantly.

Thanks to Carl V and all the folks who took part in this read-along.

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Filed under Books, Carnegie Award, DarkFantasy, Horror, Hugo Award, Locus Award, Newbury Award, R.I.P. VII, Read-Along, Thoughts, Young Adult

Those Across The River by Christopher Buehlman

Those Across The River by Christopher Buehlman

Ace Books, New York, 2011

Borrowed from my library. Nominated for the 2012 World Fantasy Award.  This is the first book I’ve read for R.I.P. VII.

I think is I try to summarize this novel I might give something away so I am including a quote from the author’s website:

The year is 1935. Veteran of the Great War and failed academic Frank Nichols ignores a warning not to move into the home he inherits in the small southern town of Whitbrow; a home his wife calls “The Canary House” because of its fresh coat of yellow paint.

But there is another house in the woods beyond the river, an estate that lies in ruins; the once-magnificent Savoyard plantation, where a cruel forebear of Frank’s drove his slaves to murder him. Frank means to find this ruin and write about the horrors that occurred there, but little does he suspect that his presence in town will stir something that should have been left sleeping. Something with a long memory. If the people of Whitbrow have forgotten why they don’t go across the river, they will soon remember.

This is southern gothic with a twist.   Buehlman has written a novel that evokes the years of the Great Depression in a small town in the southern United States, with undercurrents of poverty and racism.  More than that, there is terror.   Hidden away on the other side of the river is memory, and that memory carries horror with it.  This combination of elements creates an interesting analogy, horror and parts of our history as a nation.  I found this a great read for R.I.P.  Give it a try.

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Filed under Books, DarkFantasy, Horror, R.I.P. VII, Thoughts

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker

The Modern Library, New York, 2001

Borrowed from the library.

This is not a review, more a collection of thoughts.  Read for the R.I.P V challenge, this vampire novel brought back memories of my introduction to Count Dracula.  Bela Lugosi’s chilling portrayal gave my sister and myself nightmares, though I have to admit the idea of being able to change into a bat was fascinating. Dracula was not the first but is certainly the most famous vampire story.  I have read that Stoker was inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, a novella published is 1872 and available at Project Gutenberg.

Stoker’s novel, written as a series of letters and journal entries and published in 1897, is atmospheric and fast paced in places, overwrought and melodramatic in others. This is my second reading and,  filled with ideas of class and culture of the time and written in odd dialects, I found myself skimming in places that seemed to go on and on.  I am curious about the reactions to Dracula when it was first published, not so much the responses of critics or psychoanalysts, but the general public.

It is interesting,  how this one novel has influenced so much modern popular culture, from movies to books and television.  I must reread my all time favorite vampire novel, just to see how it compares, and then watch “Let The Right One In”.  If you haven’t seen this film I recommend it.  It is frighteningly beautiful.   I would also like to read the  novel the film is based on.

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Filed under Classic, Horror, Review, RIP V Challenge