The Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson
Introduction by Guillermo del Toro
I read the introductory material for this edition of The Haunting, and I found it both enjoyable and helpful. Del Toro's description of the reasons for including the book and others in this series was instructive and entertaining. I liked learning about his childhood reading preferences--it's always fascinating to hear what an artist chose as a child, what influenced him or her. And then the article about Jackson and her work contains some fascinating biographical information I'd never heard before, as well as suggested reading lists.
As for the story itself, other than the introductory material, I came to this book NOT having read about it elsewhere. I've seen both movie versions, that's about it.
The story only makes sense for me if Eleanor is having a psychotic break. She's so imaginative. On the drive to the mansion, she stops and imagines herself in several locations. In the last half of the story, when Eleanor starts to hear people talking when they are not, or when she thinks she can hear the sounds the birds make on the roof, I started to think she had imagined herself going to Hill House, imagined all these other characters (who really do seem to me like the repressed aspects of her own personality), and finally lost herself in the fantasy instead of coming back out of it.
This is probably a theory that already exists, but that's what I got out of it. The last third or so of the novel was not what I expected. Somehow I did not have the sense that it was the house, or a spirit within the house, imposing these things on Eleanor. If the other characters are projections of her own mind, then the fact that they (usually) hear and see odd things as well adds no credibility to the haunting.
I wanted something a little more definite from the story line, especially at its conclusion. It felt uncertain to me, and I didn't find myself enjoying the uncertainty.