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Book Thoughts: The Haunting of Hill House

Book Thoughts: The Haunting of Hill HouseThe Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Laura Miller
Published on November 28, 2006
Genres: Horror, Gothic
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 208
Format: Paperback

Source: Barnes and Noble

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It 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.

For starters, I decided I’m going to do book reviews a little differently. If it’s a book I’m just reading of my own accord, it’ll be more informal. If it’s a book I’m reading for a publisher I’ll keep to my traditional way of doing things!

Anyways, I just finished The Haunting of Hill House, and first of all, SHIRLEY JACKSON WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?

How could I have gone so long without reading a Jackson novel? I feel ashamed. I’m obsessed. I’m in love. I have never felt such dread while reading a book before.

I also had to read The Lottery once I started to learn more about her, and read the terrific book introduction (Penguins Classic version FTW). Well, obviously, one of my new favorite short stories ever.

Jackson knows how to write a persistent ache of tension and suspense perhaps better than any modern horror writer. I’ve read quite a bit of horror and many thrillers, but despite the fact, Hill House has no “ghosts,” it made me more uneasy than anything I’ve read previously.

The first thing I did after finishing the book was to spend time online reading analytical essays. I love that this novel is so open-ended. There is so much to unpack. I felt I could relate to Eleanor’s sense of isolation; perhaps that is one reason I was so unnerved. I couldn’t help but wonder what Hill House would do to me, had I stayed.

Reading the book also made me appreciate the Netflix series much more. Despite their differences, Flanagan indeed did a magnificent job of conveying the sense of palpable fear the house drums up.

Sure the series was more flashy and had actual entities, but it felt sincere to the story. Especially the addition of the red room, which makes perfect sense why it fits so well once you’ve read the book.

Anyway, I feel like I could go on forever and should say something amazing and in-depth but I’m coming up blank at the moment. I think I will revisit the dark corners of Hill House soon and form more coherent thoughts about it.

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Book Review: The Child Finder by Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder (Naomi Cottle, #1) by Rene Denfeld
Series: Naomi Cottle #1
Published on September 5, 2017
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 274
Format: Hardcover

Source: Barnes and Noble

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Plenty of people adored this book. I, unfortunately, was not one of them.

The Child Finder follows Naomi, a woman who is plagued by her past trauma as a child who had once gone missing. Now she attempts to make up for the pain she suffered by seeking out the lost children of the world.

She is called to a town in Oregon, a place baked in her bleak history, to aid a pair of desperate parents anxious for their daughter to come home. The police have given up. The media has moved on. Naomi is their only hope.

Naomi’s characterization is one of the most significant issues I had with The Child Finder. To put it succinctly, she doesn’t have any. We know she only trusts three people (repeated ad nauseum). She has a semi-incestual love interest in her foster brother. She cares only about her career in finding lost children, which is fine if every paragraph wasn’t layered with manufactured subtext about the meaning of life and weighted significance of even the briefest encounters.

To put it bluntly, this was a dull read for me. The writing is poetic, I can see why people were drawn to it. Many passages were lyrical and beautiful to read. But beyond the beauty, I found it difficult to grasp any depth, or if there was any, it felt forced upon the reader.

I found the writing style leaned towards sentimentality for sentiment’s sake. It was often cringe-worthy with the amount of sap and romanticized moments that hardly needed it.

Mainly, large portions of the story felt overwritten, and I felt my eyes glazing over as the subplots twisted onwards, and the central mystery fell to the wayside.

The character perspective frequently switches, making it difficult to follow where you are in the story at times because of the style and timeline.

Should you read The Child Finder?

My dislike of the book appears to be in the minority. You might be able to find the magical spark of The Child Finder that I missed. By my own experience with this book, I wouldn’t suggest it, but other people would with intensity!