The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson, Laura Miller We do not exist if we are not noticed.That idea is what I took away from the tortuous, shocking horror novel The Haunting of Hill House, but I have no idea if it’s a common interpretation or not. The story begins innocuously, or as innocuously as a story can begin when the opening chapters feature four characters driving to a secluded country house in hopes of monitoring supernatural activity previously observed there. After finishing the novel, I looked back upon the slow, casual beginning with awe; this novel takes so many sharp turns along the way, the ending is nearly 180° from the start and I’m still not exactly sure what I read. One thing I do know is that the novel is ostensibly about Hill House, as suggested by the title, but what it’s really about is Eleanor, the character who lends her perspective to most of the narrative. Eleanor is one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever come across, and I still don’t quite know what to make of her. The first description of Eleanor reads: Without ever wanting to become reserved and shy, she had spent so long alone, with no one to love, that it was difficult for her to talk, even casually, to another person without self-consciousness and an awkward inability to find words. With this quotation, Jackson prepares the reader to sympathize with dear Eleanor while also introducing the complexities of Eleanor’s psyche, which become very important to the interpretation of the novel. Upon arriving at Hill House, Eleanor makes her first ever friends and becomes besotted with the camaraderie of Theodora, an outgoing woman who is Eleanor’s virtual opposite, the male attention of Luke, the heir to Hill House, and Dr. Montague, the scientist in charge of the investigation who tells Eleanor she was chosen for the project because she is special (she showed poltergeist tendencies in her youth). So this tableau is the set-up Jackson provides, and it appears simple enough but slowly, Hill House creeps in and things get crazy. No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.Act II is where the horror elements appear, and there were some moments that truly frightened me. the scariest moment was when Eleanor heard noises, but she thinks she is suffering with Theodora by her side throughout as they are holding hands, hearing the same supernatural disturbances, but then Theo wakes up after hearing Eleanor cry out, leaving Eleanor to wonder whose hand she was holding throughout the entire event But since we’re reading through the eyes of an unreliable narrator, it is unclear whether this paranormal activity is affecting all the characters equally. Indeed, it is unclear whether this activity is even happening. And therein lies the magic of this novel. I have absolutely no idea what happened, but I love trying to figure it out. How is one supposed to read Hill House? Is it a true tale of supernatural horror? Or is it merely the unraveling of an unstable, lonely woman, a woman who has been denied her cup of stars for 30 years? Whichever interpretation you choose, you will be spooked, because both are equally shocking and sorrowful. Here’s a litmus test of whether you’ll like this book: did you love or hate the top-spinning final scene in the film Inception? If you hated it, step away. If you loved it, or at the very least, if you found the post-film discussion it provoked compelling, then you might appreciate The Haunting of Hill House. There aren’t many answers here, but there are a whole lot of interpretations that will haunt you for days.