Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Synopsis (by Goodreads):

The Haunting of Hill House is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.”

REVIEW:

This is my first Shirley Jackson novel. I had been familiar with her work thanks to the recent slew of adaptations in Hollywood, but had never actually read any of her work. Haunted Houses are my favorite of the horror genre, so I figured this would be the perfect pick to kick off spooky season. I think this is a good beginner horror book. It’s definitely creepy and has the normal gothic horror element of is this all actually happening or is this just in the lead character’s head. It’s not outright terrifying or gory, which are both positives for me.

The Haunting of Hill House feels like textbook horror, in that it is the standard that most set out to achieve. There is a lot of ambiguity in this novel; the reader is left to determine whether these horrors are actually happening, is Eleanor a victim in all this, or is everything happening in her own mind? I think the ambiguity is what makes it such a strong horror novel, and truly makes it feel creepy. I definitely recommend this novel if you are looking for something to get in the Halloween spirit.

RATING: 8/10

Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Twenty-five years ago, Maggie Holt and her parents moved into Baneberry Hall, a huge Victorian estate located in remote Vermont. Baneberry came with its own dark history before her family ever arrived. They spent three weeks there, before fleeing in the dead of night. Maggie’s father decided to recount their terrifying ordeal in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. It became an instant best seller, and proceeded to follow Maggie for the rest of her life. Maggie doesn’t remember any of the events in House of Horrors being that she was only five at the time. She also doesn’t believe that any of it actually happened, because obviously ghosts aren’t real. So when she inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she makes the decision to remodel and sell the house, but not before she learns its secrets and discovers the truth for herself.

REVIEW

This is my second Riley Sager novel. I read Final Girls last year around Halloween, which was perfect for that time of year. When I saw that Home Before Dark was available as a choice for Book of the Month, I picked it right away. I love haunted house stories, and I love how meticulously planned out all the details are in Riley Sager’s novels. There are a bunch of big discoveries, like any true horror novel, and I only saw one of them coming which is pretty great.

Maggie is a great narrator, she’s smart and her story is compelling. The chapters from her father’s book alternate with the current storyline which helps to add context Maggie’s discoveries and amp up the drama. I don’t want to give too many details away, since I think with books like Home Before Dark the less you know the better.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, it’s entertaining and definitely a great book if you are looking to get into the Halloween spirit.

RATING: 8/10

Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

After receiving a frantic and confusing letter from her newly married cousin, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a large Victorian mansion in the Mexican countryside. Her cousin’s new husband is a virtual stranger and outsider, after a rushed courtship and marriage. Noemí is an unlikely candidate for rescuer, she’s glamorous, with a calendar filled with cocktail parties. Underneath that appearance though, she is tough, smart and isn’t afraid of her cousin’s in-laws no matter how odd they seem. Her only ally is the younger brother to her cousin’s husband. He is shy and often intimidated by Noemí, but he’s her only chance at figuring out what is wrong with her cousin and escaping High Place.

REVIEW

This was my Book of the Month selection for July and it did not disappoint. I have never read anything by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (though I’ve heard great things about Gods of Jade and Shadow and its on my to-read list). I was constantly trying to figure out what was going on, and what weird thing the family was into and I was still surprised in the end. It had everything you love about the gothic horror genre. The gradual rise of dread throughout the novel is perfect. The dread actually never ends, and there is an ambiguity to the ending that is haunting. It makes the novel really stick with you. Mexican Gothic also touches on racial, class, and labor inequality. The author hits all the Gothic tropes, but they are in a different viewpoint which makes it work so well.

It’s the perfect novel if love Gothic horror, or you are looking to get into some spooky Halloween vibes.

RATING: 9/10