Review: The Woman in Black – Susan Hill

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Upon the sudden death of Alice Drablow, Arthur Kipps, her solicitor, travels to the town she lived near, Crythin Gifford. From there, he travels to Eel Marsh House, Drablow’s house, to sort through her paperwork. While there, he witnesses inexplicable happenings that stay with him for the rest of his life.


Why this book?: I really enjoyed the movie, and I was interested in how the book was.

 

Creepy atmosphere

I was quite surprised with how The Woman in Black ended up feeling to me. After watching the movie, mainly because Daniel Radcliffe was in it, I was expecting something a bit more scary then what I eventually got.

Hill’s writing is very reminiscent of classic Gothic works such as Dracula and The Mysterious Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, laying heavily into long descriptions and mental ramblings of the character. It took a while for my brain to adjust, but I eventually fell back into the mutual love that I have for Gothic works and their peculiar writing style. Hill’s story falls easily into the Gothic stereotype, giving the dark and creepy atmosphere, the isolated setting, and the stigma attached to the place that the oblivious character is going to.

With the Gothic writing, Hill wasn’t hard pressed to create an in-depth Gothic setting, leaving Eel Marsh House up to the reader’s imagination. I found myself falling onto the movie’s set, which wasn’t bad, although it brings to question what people would see if they hadn’t seen the movie. A generic creepy house?

Creepy is all that it was

I was expecting horror, or at least something that would make me afraid of the dark for a few days. The ‘creepiness’ really didn’t come in until later on in the story, after at least the 60% mark. Even then, I didn’t really find a lot of the events that weird, and in fact thought that Kipps was being melodramatic for what he was experiencing.

It also didn’t help that Hill’s descriptions of events sometimes wouldn’t be complete until after the scene was over, leaving you to go back in your mind and correct what you had already visualized.

The ending was also noticeably abrupt. The last scene Kipps described finished, and then there was one last paragraph before the book ended. There wasn’t any resolution, which I suppose is essential to a good ghost/horror novel, but it was so sudden that it took me a moment to realize I had actually finished.

Final Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall?

It’s possible that I was expecting too much out of this book. While I enjoyed the Gothic feel of it, I found it quite lacking in development and actual scariness. 

Would I Recommend?

Probably not if you’re a fan of the movie. If you just want a good Gothic ghost story, then this could be the book for you.


 

Additional Information:

Published: October 10th, 1983

Publisher: Hamish Hamilton

Page Count: 216

Genre: Horror/Gothic/Mystery

Synopsis: via Goodreads

The classic ghost story by Susan Hill: a chilling tale about a menacing spectre haunting a small English town.

Arthur Kipps is an up-and-coming London solicitor who is sent to Crythin Gifford—a faraway town in the windswept salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway—to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of a client, Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Mrs. Drablow’s house stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but Kipps is unaware of the tragic secrets that lie hidden behind its sheltered windows. The routine business trip he anticipated quickly takes a horrifying turn when he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images—a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed all in black. Psychologically terrifying and deliciously eerie, The Woman in Black is a remarkable thriller of the first rate.

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