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WhiskeyintheJar Romance

Romance book talk, reviews, recipes, and dog pictures

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Guest Reviewer at:  Reading Between the Wines book club

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Kyraryker’s quotes


"She thought it over, but couldn’t see any immediate loopholes other than the threat of her inner slut emerging, and she could darned well control that little bitch."— Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Supernatural or psychotic break?

The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson, Laura Miller

 

it might not then be too fanciful to say that some houses are born bad.

 

Apparently, I do think it is too fanciful because I felt this book was way more of this,

 

I think we are only afraid of ourselves,” the doctor said slowly.

“No,” Luke said. “Of seeing ourselves clearly and without disguise.”

“Of knowing what we really want,” Theodora said.

 

Instead of getting eeked out by the supernatural trying to creep into the story, I was completely focused on Eleanor and what seemed like her emotional and psychological bid and try for freedom. She is introduced as the daughter that took care of her mother until the mother's death and now resides with her sister but still lacks autonomy and agency. When she gets a letter in the mail asking her to come stay at a house, what a more adjusted person would turn down, she jumps at, grasping at it in a sense of freedom to get away from her life. 

 

Don’t do it, Eleanor told the little girl; insist on your cup of stars; once they have trapped you into being like everyone else you will never see your cup of stars again; don’t do it; and the little girl glanced at her, and smiled a little subtle, dimpling, wholly comprehending smile, and shook her head stubbornly at the glass. Brave girl, Eleanor thought; wise, brave girl.

 

This ended up being one of the most important and emotional scenes to me. Eleanor wanting the girl to make a different choice than she did, choosing to live her life the way she wants to, something Eleanor hasn't done. I have a lot of questions about this story, lol, but a big one is later on Theodora is talking about Eleanor drinking from her cup of stars and Eleanor talking about missing it. So, my big question is, was this a clue to how Eleanor manifested scenes, was this actually a flashback to a moment in Eleanor's life where she pinpoints things went off track for her and on her journey to freedom, she recreates the scene and makes (the little girl not drinking out of the cup) a different choice? It seems like an important clue that Eleanor had a cup of stars and the little girl she "saw" did too. I don't know, maybe I missed something or am reaching. Thinking this way though, lead me more down the path of Hill House instances being or coming from Eleanor's head.

 

No, she thought, I don’t like it here.

it’s awful and I don’t want to stay; but there was nowhere else to go, 

 

This story was so much more about the human condition to me than paranormal, which I think is kind of annoying, I don't want to I "read this wrong" but I think I missed some pleasure others got out of it. Theodora always represented what Eleanor envisioned as ideal and why she spent so much time with her and why her clothes were and room were attacked. But were they? The newcomers of the dr's wife and Arthur walk in the room and claim everything is fine. Talking about mass hysteria in the other Halloween Bingo book I am reading made me think that was what was happening at times, with Eleanor, Theodora, Luke, and the Dr. freaking each other out, remember, the newcomers never heard the loud noises from the night everyone was scared. The anticipation wave from the group seemed to be thinking this is a haunted house, waiting for something to happen, wanting something to happen to simply get it over with, and then creating things that were happening.The blood on the walls confuses me the most because Luke saw it first, probably the biggest argument towards paranormal for me. 

 

Peace, Eleanor thought concretely; what I want in all this world is peace, a quiet spot to lie and think, a quiet spot up among the flowers where I can dream and tell myself sweet stories.

 

Eleanor was just so incredibly tragic for me and I think building up to psychotic breakdown. Her trip towards freedom wasn't working out quite like she thought, she has the big rejection from Theodora and while she doesn't seem to be able to quite get along with people, she doesn't want to be alone, and she simply can't handle going back to her sisters. This story just really screamed American women around the '50-'60s, seeing autonomy but not having the foundation to get there and maybe even fear of what it would be like. One of my other favorite scenes was when Eleanor was talking with Luke and thinking about the questions people ask each other and how it is discussed about what people want others to know about them and what people want to tell others; more human condition stuff to me. I enjoyed the contrast too of Luke just being handed the house and women to an extent and just selfishly expecting it as his due; how women have to fight for things and men just naturally expect them issues going on here. 

 

I am really doing it, I am doing this all by myself, now, at last; this is me, I am really really really doing it by myself.

 

The ending was so sad for me and this line cuts with how attempted suicide and suicide (in letters) victims talk about making that final choice and feeling finally empowered that they have finally taken control. I know some people who think more along the lines of paranormal will think it was the house driving her to do this and I can definitely see an argument for that also but I see it more as the psychotic break crash. 

 

Walled up alive.” Eleanor began to laugh again at their stone faces. “Walled up alive,” she said. “I want to stay here.”

 

I saw Eleanor as making the choice to kill herself because she was too scared to go out and live life, even though she desperately wanted to. Her whole life living with her mother, probably an argument for co-dependency there and then semi-transferring the dependency to her sister and then failing in transferring it to Theodora.

 

I feel like I have more questions after I read the book, lol. Why didn't Eleanor remember Theodora for a few minutes there towards the end? This weird moment thinking about Theodora:

I would like to watch her dying, Eleanor thought, and smiled back and said, “Don’t be silly.”

The others experiencing some of the "hauntings" of the house, the creepy caregivers (but apparently the housekeeper was completely normal around the dr.'s wife), the planchette readings, and what did Theodora see during the picnic are all questions I don't have answers for. Maybe I need to give way for some paranormal. Overall though, this book was really only ever about the frightening ways our minds can control us.