wishfulclicking: (gen: mia w in red/black)
[personal profile] wishfulclicking
This post is solely based on the first chapter with me not having read the rest of the book. I wanted to make this post untainted by later events so I can maybe make some (wrong) predictions. Though this post is focused on the first chapter, I have finished the book, so feel free to comment on events beyond the first chapter.



From the first line of 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. I knew I was in for something weird and vaguely upsetting in that way really good horror can be. Jackson described Hill House next, putting it in the center of attention, as the thing that others react to.

At first, I thought the story would be centered on Dr. Montague and his aim of respectability while studying the occult; after the brief introduction of the assistants I thought it the narrative would swing back to him. One thing I did note that all the assistants are presented one way but hints are dropped that suggest they are more than what they are perceived to be.

The rest of the chapter zooms in on Eleanor, and from the outset her layered characterization shines. She’s someone of forced stunted social skills because of her role as caretaker to her mother (and I loved that note that she hated her just for the pause I took at the sentence), and she has a passively antagonistic relationship with her sister and her sister’s husband (the car argument was done so well in its passive aggressive familial spat vibe). But she’s also fierce in a quiet way, that once she’s set on something she does not give up; this is shown when she takes the car, but also when she stops at the diner even though Dr. Montague advised her against it. Her negative feelings only land on their designated marks; when she bumps into the old woman, she quickly tries to make amends.

When she’s traveling to the house I did note how each location that pulled her attention was wrapped in fantasy and her dreams of grandeur; perhaps her using the fantastic to describe these locations is a result of her forced situation where she didn’t get to develop many social skills, but I do like these dreamy sidesteps Eleanor takes.

The diner scene reminded me of so many horror films where there’s a small town nearby full of suspicious locals. As her distance to Hill House decreases, the ominous notes increase, reaching a high point in the confrontation with the groundskeeper, another moment where Eleanor retreats into fantasy for a moment before she tries her best to take control of the situation. With the rush of the groundskeeper meeting behind her (but not without another warning), Eleanor, again, pulls to fantasy to make a situation more palatable with the dream of the smuggler, but that train of thought is quickly cut off with the reality of Hill House and her first, immediate true thought: The House was vile [...] get away from here at once.”

Date: 2016-01-13 07:28 pm (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (King Lear)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
I said I hadn't read any of our books, and I haven't, but I did watch both screen adaptations (1963 and 1999), so I was curious how both of them followed the book, if at all.

I don't understand what "absolute reality" is and "even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream" just seems like Jackson is trying to sound poetic (and not succeeding), but I love the words "Hill House, not sane" - also the humour in "but skeptics, believers, and good croquet players are harder to come by today" :)

I am intrigued by the gifts Owen Wilson Luke is given by friends of the family - or, not the gifts, but that they give him gifts. Why? Was that custom back in not that many decades ago? I'm kind of picturing cougars wanted to get him into bed?

I'm always surprised - but in a good way; I learned something new! - when it turns out I have a romanticized view of the past: I was very surprised at the little old lady swearing "damn you damn you!" in the streets!

I liked Eleanor at first, and loved her taking the car from her rotten relatives,* and at first enjoyed her enjoying her drive. But her unrealistic fantasies kind of annoyed me, and at the end of the first chapter/part, I didn't like her as well as in the beginning.

In general, I find the writing good, and I finished the whole book in two days, yay. I'll be back with some comments on the rest of the book after people have had a chance to join the discussion on the first chapter without being spoiled.


*I hadn't consciously thought about it, but you are so right that the argument is so realistic.


P.S. House on Haunted Hill (1959) and House on Haunted Hill (1999)
Edited Date: 2016-01-14 03:55 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-01-17 05:31 pm (UTC)
blnchflr: Meta - layers of meaning (Meta)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
I prefer the 1963 version, too, but the 1999 did have some effective scary bits - I remember the knocking doors being quite scary, which they sure as heck were in the book, too, which I didn't expect O____O

That moment of desperate clarity before the end was kind of great though.
Yes, it was.

As we're now talking about the whole book:

Do you read the book as a ghost story? I read it as an excellent example of the fantastic, where we can't be sure that the characters' perceptions of what's going on isn't just all in their head. Two things especially point to this:

The scene where Eleanor and Theodora are out walking and are scared - where Eleanor sees the picnic, and what Theodora sees is unknown. The way the scene of their return is written is definitely meant to indicate Theodora did not experience what Eleanor did.

Mrs. Montague and Arthur Parker's view of the supernatural are obviously mocked in the book and not meant to be taken seriously - what they experience is heavily indicated as something they (subconsciously) make up: they see what they want to see. But that also opens up the possibility of interpreting Dr. Montague et al.s' experiences as equally all in their heads.

Apart from the knocking doors scene, which really did scare me, this aspect of the story (are there supernatural going-ons or not?) is the best part of the book for me, and very well executed by Jackson!

Date: 2016-01-20 08:40 pm (UTC)
blnchflr: Art by Peter Holck (Peter Holck)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
I couldn't make up my mind about the cold spot, but the doors was genuinely frightening.

I think I like the fantastic the best - when it's not possible to say for sure one way or the other. I'm trying to think of ghost stories in literature that I liked. Eh, have read? My mind is all blank, all I can think of is the ghosts in Harry Potter :)

Oh, there have been a couple of fanfics that were super-creepy ghost stories - that SGA one and the Sentinel one. And obv. lots of SPN fic - most notably Somatic, which is gorram brilliant, one of the most finely crafted fics I have read.

Date: 2016-01-23 08:20 am (UTC)
blnchflr: Faniversity - DW campus (Faniversity)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
Right, you have to read it three times to fully appreciate what's going on? I'm so impressed with it. Go home, so-called pro-fic.

Date: 2016-01-17 05:39 pm (UTC)
kabal42: Captain America and Iron Man leaning on each other, arms around each other's shoulders (Default)
From: [personal profile] kabal42
Like Skuf, I also adored that second line about Hill House itself. All in all, I also really enjoy the language of this first chapter.

Eleanor's discovery of freedom and potential is wonderful to read, I can feel her rush from it, all her dreams and the possibility of a life different from the one she has had. Her imagination is wonderful and possibly under-stimulated. But we are also told she draws - and there are art supplies in her car with her - so perhaps this is another way of showing us her artistic mind. Sadly, my sample chapter cut off before the diner scene, but I think I will have to return to the book and get the whole thing read.

Thanks for choosing this one - and hosting :)

Date: 2016-01-17 06:52 pm (UTC)
blnchflr: Captain America Civil War (Foreigner)
From: [personal profile] blnchflr
You can borrow my copy, if you want - I want to hear what you think of the rest of it; it's easily read :)

Date: 2016-01-17 07:09 pm (UTC)
kabal42: Captain America and Iron Man leaning on each other, arms around each other's shoulders (Default)
From: [personal profile] kabal42
I would like that :) I will promise to get it back before the borrowing time is out!

Date: 2016-01-19 08:00 pm (UTC)
kabal42: Captain America and Iron Man leaning on each other, arms around each other's shoulders (Default)
From: [personal profile] kabal42
Thanks :) I will do my best to remember to come back here once I've read the rest.
I think I picked up on it because her drawings were mentioned, and I had not expected it, so it kind of stuck with me.
I liked her process around taking the car - and the awkward family discussion preceding it - but esp. her treatment of the little elderly lady.

Date: 2016-01-17 08:00 pm (UTC)
calvinahobbes: Calvin holding a cardboard tv-shape up in front of himself (Default)
From: [personal profile] calvinahobbes
What are you counting as chapter 1? In all the versions I can find on Amazon ch1 is only a few pages and only has the introduction of the doctor. The previews end in the middle of section/chapter? 4 as far as I can see.

Anyway, I think the premise is super great, and the first section is not really enough to give a feel for how the book will play out. But I do love the idea presented that the house has a personality of its own. I generally love it when houses are characters in stories!

The idea of the doctor reminds me a lot of Crimson Peak, and so it wasn't surprising but still delightful to discover that Guillermo del Toro curated the title for a Penguin horror series <3

Date: 2016-01-17 08:51 pm (UTC)
calvinahobbes: Calvin holding a cardboard tv-shape up in front of himself (Default)
From: [personal profile] calvinahobbes
Aww, there wasn't any del Toro intro in my version :((( I'm really sad about that.

Date: 2016-01-19 08:01 pm (UTC)
kabal42: Captain America and Iron Man leaning on each other, arms around each other's shoulders (Default)
From: [personal profile] kabal42
Ack, now I really want to read the version with his introduction. (Must not buy more books. Must not.)

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wishfulclicking: man in black and white pulling back a curtain to show moving sky (Default)
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