The Haunting of Hill House
By Shirley Jackson
“Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”
So begins one of the greatest haunted house stories ever told. The WPL Adult Book Club chose Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House as our October read because this disturbing story is perfect for Halloween. Dr. Montague contacts three individuals and invites them to stay in Hill House in order to observe its “psychic phenomenon” for an upcoming book. Two of the invitees, Theodora and Eleanor, have histories of paranormal experiences while the third, Luke, stands to inherit Hill House from his aunt. The fifth character in this book is the house itself. Hill House, with its ethereal moans, cold spots, and swinging doors, comes to life on the page.
Compared to the current offerings of the horror genre, Hill House may seem rather tame for modern readers. Movies like Saw, Paranormal Activity and the proliferation of ghost hunting shows have desensitized us to the simple horrors of slamming doors and drafts of wind that seem to carry voices. But if you find yourself alone late at night and you read the words, “Nothing in this house moves…until you look away…”, you may feel a clammy sweat filming over your palms and experience a kind of paralysis that comes with extreme fear. Jackson masterfully captures the simple, primal fear that a creepy old house can inspire. This scary story is a thoroughly readable and timely pick for your fall reading.
Join us next month to discuss Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried on November 19th at 6pm.
October 7, 2013
The quiet turbulent lives of Japanese picture brides
The Buddha in the Attic
By Julie Otsuka
“Many picture brides, misled by visions of wealth and photographs of younger versions of their new husbands, were sorely disappointed upon arrival in the United States. Unprepared for the back-breaking labor, the primitive living conditions, and the cultural adjustments, some deserted their husbands and ran away with lovers. Most, however, stayed and made the best of the situation, working alongside their husbands in the fields or in small businesses while helping to establish family life in their new country.”--The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History
Between 1910 and 1920, approximately 20,000 Japanese women unwittingly joined the migrant labor force, mostly on plantations and farms in Hawaii and California. A novel, The Buddha in the Attic reads like a compilation of their true life stories distilled into a 129-page prose poem. Divided into eight sections, the life events of the picture brides are depicted: the ship passage to America, their wedding nights, encountering racism for the first time, giving birth, raising children, living as objects of post-Pearl Harbor suspicion, internment, and finally, the resultant “disappearance” of what remained of their Japanese lives in the homeland of their American-born children.
Avoiding sentimentality, Otsuka uses crisp sentences, juxtaposing one woman’s experience next to another's, sentence after sentence, successfully evoking a jarring feeling that one imagines the young hopeful brides endured themselves. Layer by layer, it is demonstrated to the reader how little one controls one’s destiny, particularly when born female in certain times and places throughout history. A quick read, but worth checking out; locate or place it on hold here.