“A Sense of Belonging” in The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Netflix series of the same title, though different, has spawned new interest in this classic about a haunted house.

Dr. Montague invited participants to the house that he believes are susceptible to the paranormal. Only later does he realize the enormity of his misjudgment. One of the participants, who is more fragile than the others, is driven to insanity.

What Eleanor wants more than anything is to be accepted. She has taken care of her ailing mother at the expense of her own happiness. Now, in her thirties, in want of adventure, Eleanor “borrows” her sisters car and meets the group at Hill House.

Soon it becomes apparent that Eleanor has no where else to go. Eleanor has lied about having her own apartment–she only has a cot in her sister’s house.

Poignantly, Eleanor thinks that she has made lasting friendships in less than a week. Naively, she assumes Theo would want to continue their friendship after the Hill House adventure is over. Eleanor says she intends to move into Theo’s small apartment after she leaves Hill House.

This is surprising at first given how much they argue. They fight over foolish things e.g. Luke’s attention or being in the group’s “spotlight.”

More than anything else, The Haunting of Hill House is about yearning for a sense of belonging. “Come Home, Eleanor,” a ghostly hand writes on a wall in blood. Eleanor is mortified that the ghost has called her out by name. This isn’t the spotlight that she wants.

Eleanor, who acutely yearns to belong, is afraid of appearing foolish and being rejected.

When Luke says she isn’t welcome anymore, after her unusual behavior on the staircase, Eleanor is beyond crushed. The tragic ending coincides with her lamentations at being rejected from Hill House.

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Fellside

Fellside by M.R. Carey

Fellside is another terrifying, yet gripping story by M.R. Carey, the author of The Girl With All The Gifts. 

Jess Moulson goes on a hunger strike shortly before entering a maximum security prison, Fellside.

Though Jess nearly dies, a young boy gives her a reason to live. Alex, the ghost of the boy whom everyone believes she killed, asks her to do the one thing she cannot refuse.

Fellside is a ghost story that reads like a riveting psychological thriller and suspenseful mystery.

Jess’s relationship with Alex is complicated. She wants to protect him from everything but he is also powerful. He saved her when a nurse punctured her artery instead of her vein:

“He’d brought her back from the abyss, from the mouth of the grave. She owed him everything and he owed her nothing except arguably a life for a life and a tooth for a tooth.”

Alex knows, however, that the fire Jess started while she was high hadn’t killed him.

The fire she set hadn’t killed him because he was already dead. So who hurt him and how did he die?

As a favor to Alex who brought her back from the blackness, Jess agrees to appeal her case and investigate what truly happened to him.