October Tea and a Book: A Haunting on the Hill, by Elizabeth Hand

Oct 17, 2023 |


Earlier this year I recommended Elizabeth Hand’s Wylding Hall (see the review here ), and it was shortly after reading that captivating novel that I learned Hand had been approved by Shirley Jackson’s estate to write a sequel to The Haunting of Hill House. I immediately pre-ordered A Haunting on the Hill and finished it in two days.

Synopsis: (from the publisher)

Holly Sherwin has been a struggling playwright for years, but now, after receiving a grant to develop her play Witching Night, she may finally be close to her big break. All she needs is time and space to bring her vision to life. When she stumbles a cross Hill House on a weekend getaway upstate, she is immediately taken in by the mansion, nearly hidden outside a remote village. It’s enormous, old, and ever-so eerie—the perfect place to develop and rehearse her play.

Despite her own hesitations, Holly’s girlfriend, Nisa, agrees to join Holly in renting the house for a month, and soon a troupe of actors, each with ghosts of their own, arrive. Yet as they settle in, the house’s peculiarities are made known: strange creatures stalk the grounds, disturbing sounds echo throughout the halls, and time itself seems to shift. All too soon, Holly and her friends find themselves at odds not just with one another, but with the house itself. It seems something has been waiting in Hill House all these years, and it no longer intends to walk alone . . .

A favorite passage (from Stevie’s point of view):

“Those voices—I think they were more like echoes, or an auditory imprint. Have you ever seen the shadow print left by a leaf on a beach house deck? The leaf is gone, but the bright light makes a kind of photo of it—a sun print. I think these voices are like that.” […]


He pointed at the laptop. “I don’t think these are ghosts. A ghost has some kind of agency, right? Usually they’re seeking retribution, or trying to tell you something about what happened to them. They interact with people on some level. I think these voices are echoes from a long time ago.” (235)

My thoughts:

In Elizabeth Hand’s A Haunting on the Hill, readers are presented with the same setting we found in the original novel – a house that seems less like a home and more like a person who is “not sane.” It’s a moody old thing, with a tendency to strike out at inhabitants for any or no reason. The characters and conflicts in this sequel are different, however, for the house is hosting creatives rather than paranormal researchers. These creatives are workshopping a play with folk horror elements. 

The first read-through of the play seems quite successful, but the house doesn’t like to be ignored. The ways in which it distracts and bedevils the guests are eerie to behold. Each member of the group has his or her mettle tested, both by the house and by those who are employed to care for it, and at times it seems Hill House intends to slowly and painfully devour every one of them.  

This novel may not be as groundbreaking as Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, but it is a worthy companion to the beloved classic. I certainly will read it again. Please, let there be a film adaptation!

Now for tea . . .

I wanted something sweet, soothing, and caffeine-free for tea, and the Toasted Almond blend from Atticus Tea in Park City, Utah, filled the bill perfectly. “This highly flavorful herbal tisane marries fresh roasted & caramelized almonds with sweet cinnamon, beetroot & baked apples. Deliciously aromatic. Try with a dash of milk & sugar for a creamy experience!” I did just that, and ended up with a cup of pink tea. How eerie. But it’s delicious!

Stay tuned for recommended Folk Horror Films — coming Thursday!

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