Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm Missing Something

I've just finished Shirley Jackson's "The haunting of Hill House" and I'm now wondering if I know anything about writing or what makes a good story.

Frankly, I didn't think the book was that good. I'll be writing up a full review soon, but I found Jackson to be the master of the never-ending sentence and the semi colon. It just went on and on.

And it wasn't that scary. The characters were fairly depicted, Nell was easy to empathise with, and the rest seemed a little like caricatures. The late introduction of the wife and Arthur was a mystery.

The house was rendered immaculately, but because there was so much of it, the details were lost in the deluge.

The prose itself was lyrical and carried me along like a beautiful piece of classical music with highs and lows, but it never actually took me anywhere. The continuing long sentences and huge paragraphs, even as the pace was supposed to be picking up, lulled me into a hypnotic trance of "Oh dear, more of the same."

This is supposed to be a classic! What did I miss?

Have you read it? How long ago did you read it? And what did you think?


  1. I read it for a gothic literature class in college, so about 14 years ago. I remember reading it and I still have it on my bookshelf but I don't remember much about it. I do remember reading it in a hurry so I could get to the next book on the list.

  2. I read it a few years ago and enjoyed it. It wasn't the scariest book I've ever read but I think it was the whole house thing that got me in. Are you going to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle? I really love that one.

  3. I didn't so much read it in a hurry, I read it over two days but then the book is a little light on for page length.

    The other two books I've read this year have been more entertaining than this one. The Harrowing was by far a better book than this in every way except the timing of the prose. There is definitely something about the underlying beat of Jackson's words which resonates as you read, a cadence which picks you up and moves you along the story - it's just that the story wasn't great.

    Danielle - a couple of people have now mentioned Castle so I'm going to take your word for it and go out and buy it - I don't borrow, must have my own copy for some reason. I'll add it to the must read shelf.

  4. I like to have my own copy as well. Will check out The Harrowing too.

  5. The Harrowing isn't released in Australia till mid to late this year. The Price isn't released until next year.

    Put it on your Christmas list. It is a good read - very dark from the get go, but a good read.

    I intend to read The Price a little later down the track. My review for The Harrowing will be released soon, I think (along with other news not so great), and I'll repost it on HorrorScope before release date.

    Same will probably happen with The Price and again with Unseen, if they send me an advanced copy of that as well. Fingers crossed.