Book vs. TV Show: The Haunting of Hill House

Hello, my darling readers!
I’ve been curious about The Haunting of Hill House ever since the show came to Netflix. Well, I wanted to read the book first, so it took me a while – but here we are!

The Plot:

…of the Show (according to Rotten Tomatoes)

The Haunting of Hill House is a modern reimagining of Shirley Jackson’s legendary novel of the same name, about five siblings who grew up in the most famous hauntedhouse in America. Now adults, they’re reunited by the suicide of their youngest sister, which forces them to finally confront the ghosts of their own pasts… some which lurk in their minds… and some which may really be lurking in the shadows of the iconic Hill House.

…of the Book (according to Goodreads)

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.

The Haunting of Hill House on Goodreads

TV Show:

As you can see from the two plot descriptions, the book and its adaptation are bound to be somewhat different. Nevertheless, there are a few things that remain the same and you can tell where the show drew inspiration from the novel. Before we get to the comparison, I’ll talk a bit about the book!

I was pretty excited to pick up the book but ended up very disappointed.
Why you may ask? First of all, the characters were pretty annoying. I didn’t like any single one of them or cared in the slightest what happened to them. Especially, Eleanor was so much in her own headspace, constantly complaining about bullshit that I soon got very annoyed with her. Honestly, most of the characters seemed to be so bothered by entirely trivial things that I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.

Had the story been intriguing enough, I would have been prepared to overlook that. However, the haunting remains rather ominous all the way through. There are some moments that seem to be building up to something but the big reveal I had been waiting for never came. Especially the ending was rather anti-climatic and really stretched what I would have been willing to accept.

Let’s forget about the book and move on to the show which proved much more interesting. Here, the story takes place at two different points in time. Today, all five siblings are adults living their separate lives. In the past, we follow them as they explore Hill House, a place they moved to just for a short time until their parents would be done flipping it.

This idea makes for a very intriguing show that deals with mysteries on two front. There’s not only supernatural horror but also a lot of psychological stuff that’ll chill you to the bone. They really nailed the connection of both aspects and of both points in time, making for a rather fascinating show.

What remains from the original novel are mostly the names of the characters and of course the Dudleys. But even they have a different vibe than in the novel. There are, however, several moments that were directly inspired by the book. That includes some of the memories characters talk about or a few of the haunting events.

All in all, the series seems much more intricate than the book. The story has more depth and will actually manage to pull you in. While the book was rather disappointing and didn’t really nail it on any front, there is nothing I can complain about in terms of the show. The characters on the show are intriguing, there’s development going on and they all have a proper backstory and depth. Usually, it’s the book that is better on this front, but in the case of The Haunting of Hill House, the characters in the novel remain rather pale, while those in the show are fascinating. It’s the same thing with the horror elements. The book was anticlimactic and everything just felt like a stretch. The show, on the other hand, excelled in this department.

All in all, I am surprised that I disliked the book so thoroughly and ended up enjoying the show so much. You can really skip the novel and just head straight for Netflix!

Did you prefer the book or the movie? Let me know in the comments!

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8 thoughts on “Book vs. TV Show: The Haunting of Hill House

  1. The Haunting of Hill House can be interpreted in two very different ways.

    The first is as a straight ghost story. Hill House is full of strange apparitions, unexplained happenings and things that go bump in the night. All members of the family of seven are impacted by the things they see and hear with Eleanor the most affected. As the story unfolds, it becomes obvious that many awful things have happened in the house and, if you believe in that sort of thing, it might very well be haunted.

    The second is more of a metaphorical look at the lingering effects of trauma and unresolved mental health issues. Every member of the Crain family suffers from some kind of mental health problem, possibly hereditary, possibly from the trauma of their mother’s suicide and their father’s refusal to talk about what happened.

    Both interpretations are explored through the series and either, as well as some kind of middle ground between the two, could be read as valid.

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