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  • Writer's pictureLouise Worthington


The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is considered the definitive haunted house story. Jac Jemc’s in The Grip Of It is like Shirley Jackson’s brand of horror with a literary bent and blurred lines between the supernatural and the psychological.

The story is told in short, dislocating chapters from a dual narrative perspective of man and wife, a device that conveys the growing paranoia and distrust between them as weird events occur, and the fresh start leaving behind his gambling addiction becomes less of a reality. The nuanced themes parallel Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s disturbing short story The Yellow Wallpaper. The familiarity of a strained marriage and a new house that’s far from a home makes for an enjoyable read: we know what to expect. It’s a pacey read, easily read in two sittings. In some ways, In the Grip Of It is domestic suspense within a haunted house.

The couple is not especially likeable or interesting, and the ending is flat. Still, the unravelling of their marriage and Julie’s mind held my attention because of the ethereal kind of writing. The language is rich and vivid at capturing a fragile world of shifting axis, a warping of reality artfully conveyed in poetic prose – especially in the book’s last third, which reminded me of Sylvia Path’s original writing in The Bell Jar.

So, I recommend this book to fans of literary and psychological horror. Four stars from me.

Find an excerpt here:

More publications by Jac Jemc:

More haunted houses stories with a literary or psychological bent:

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

White is for Witching Helen Oyeyemi

The Silent Companions Laura Purcell

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