Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (Audiobook Review)

Audiobook Reviews from Audiobook-Heaven

”TheThe Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson
narrated by Bernadette Dunne

Copyright: 2010 Blackstone Audio
Duration: 7 hours 31 minutes unabridged
Genres: horror, paranormal, psychological
Filed in: Audiobook Reviews
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PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Past the rusted gates and untrimmed hedges, Hill House broods and waits.

Four seekers have come to the ugly, abandoned old mansion: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a lonely, homeless girl well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the adventurous future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable noises and self-closing doors, but Hill House is gathering its powers and will soon choose one of them to make its own.

Copyright 2010 Blackstone Audio.

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Shirley Jackson wastes no time at all in grabbing our attention with The Haunting of Hill House. First, she introduces us to Eleanor who, let’s face it, is a little loose upstairs to begin with. Next, the author introduces us to Hill House. Right away the reader is impressed with the very wrongness of this “masterpiece of architectural misdirection”. Your very first glimpse of the house as you round the curve in the road stills your very soul, although you cannot exactly explain why. Once inside the place, if your nerve carries you that far, the feeling persists and deepens. Your eyes are drawn to the walls of each room, which somehow seem too long, or too short. Whatever it is, it just feels wrong. And then there is the layout of the house, a veritable labyrinth of rooms that lead into rooms that lead into still more rooms. And what about those doors that refuse to remain open no matter how thoroughly they are propped or blocked? Yes, Shirley Jackson knows how to get our attention, and even more so how to set our nerves humming.

Four guests come to Hill House. Their plan is to spend the summer documenting paranormal activity in a house that has a bad reputation. After only a few days in the old mansion, they get their fill: doors being knocked on in the middle of the night, muttering voices in the next room, scrawled messages on walls, first in chalk, then in what appears to be blood. There is definitely a malevolent spirit in the place, and it seems to have singled out Eleanor, actually calling her out by name. The message “Help Eleanor come home” appears on the walls on two different occasions. Is Eleanor a magnet for the paranormal, or is Hill House some sort of mirror, only reflecting the latent madness of its guests?

Eleanor is our tragic hero. Poor Eleanor who, at the age of 32, has never had a home of her own, or truly felt that she belonged somewhere. She spent several years caring for her mother and blames herself for the old lady’s eventual death. Now Eleanor sleeps on a cot in her sister’s house. Misfit that she is, Eleanor wants nothing more than to belong somewhere, and sees the invitation to Hill House as her big chance. “Journeys end in lovers meeting.” She quotes to herself again and again. Perhaps Hill House will be the dark lover that signals the end of Eleanor’s journey.

Bernadette Dunne’s narration fit the audiobook very well. The variation in her voices for the characters is subtle, but appropriate. In particular, I liked her characterization of Mrs. Dudley, the housekeeper, whose answer to everything seems to be, “I clear off at six.” I also thought Dunne did a fantastic job with Eleanor. Eleanor tries to put up a brave front, but her instability and desperation are always evident. You could hear every bit of that in Dunne’s narration.

Shirley Jackson’s methods are masterful, always keeping us guessing as to what is really going on at Hill House. Her ending is at once tragic and brilliant; I’ll never forget how shocked I was the first time I read it. Listen to this audiobook, if you dare, but leave a light on, and remember that Hill House is watching.

FILM ADAPTATION: The Haunting of Hill House has been adapted to film twice, once in 1963, and again in 1999, both carrying the title The Haunting. I vaguely remember seeing the 1999 film. If I remember right, it starred Owen Wilson and Catherine Zeta Jones. Wikipedia reveals that Liam Neeson also starred in this one. I don’t really remember anything about it, which tells me it probably wasn’t very good. Wikipedia says the 1963 film was much truer to the original story but I’ve never seen that one.

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Special thanks to Blackstone Audio for this review copy. Audiobook review by Steven Brandt. This audiobook review is based on the unabridged audiobook. Come back soon for more audiobook reviews from Audiobook-Heaven.

1 comment:

joni said...

This has got to be my all time favorite book. With Eleanor laying claim to our hearts as we read, the House holding us captive as it shifts and changes with each new door that's opened.

Stephen King praises Ms. Jackson and even tried his hand at the thriller house within the walls of The Shining!

He's no Jackson, but clearly this is a classic among horror stories. But is it horror? More of a psyche check.

This book is definitely a MUST read.

Never saw either of the screen adaptations. :(