The Woman In Black, by Susan Hill

Well, after I Married You for Happiness and A Monster Calls, I promised a lighter read would follow. The Woman In Black, while not emotionally draining as the other books were, could hardly be classed as a ‘light’ read! I guess I should feel lucky to find a bunch of books that evoke such emotion!

The book tells the story of Arthur Kipps, a lawyer’s assistant, who is sent to a small English village to deal with the estate of a deceased client. The house in question resides on a small island among marshes, accessible only by a causeway that floods at certain times of the day. The isolation thus created lends itself perfectly in the telling of this ghost story.

While I appreciate that this doesn’t tell you much about the story that follows, I don’t want to say more because I feel it would ruin it.  The pieces of the story are only gradually put together and, while some plot points were predictable, otherwise were a complete surprise – and the ending that tied it all together was a complete shock to me. I think I even gave an audible gasp (this is why I have to be careful about reading books in public)!

The book is relatively short (170-ish pages in my paperback copy) but the author is masterful at building tension. This tension makes The Woman in Black a page-turner – but I actually read this book relatively slowly, savouring each of the short chapters individually. I am not a fan of horror usually but this is a more subtle ghost story. Nothing gruesome or gory happens to the main character, but the almost gothic atmosphere the author creates still makes for a spooky read. This is definitely not a book to read before bed. Or if you happen to be alone in a large house on the edge of a marsh.

I haven’t read anything else by Susan Hill but picked up this book after hearing that it has been made into a film that will be released later this year. There has also been a hugely successful long-running West End play based on this book. While I can imagine this book as a film (and look foward to seeing it), I find it difficult to see how they could create the same atmosphere in a large theatre. Has anyone seen the play?

A recommended read…for the daytime. 4 out of 5 stars.


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