Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Woman in Black

Author: Susan Hill
Summary:What real reader does not yearn, somewhere in the recesses of his or her heart, for a really literate, first-class thriller - one that chills the body with foreboding of dark deeds to come, but warms the soul with perceptions and language at once astute and vivid? In other words, a ghost story by Jane Austen. Austen we cannot, alas, give you, but Susan Hill's remarkable "Woman In Black" comes as close as the late twentieth century is likely to provide. Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story has as its hero one Arthur Kipps, an up-and-coming young solicitor who has come north to attend the funeral and settle the estate of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the nursery of the deserted Eel Marsh House, the eerie sound of pony and trap, a child's scream in the fog, and, most dreadfully, and for Kipps most tragically, the woman in black. The "Woman In Black" is both a brilliant exercise in atmosphere and controlled horror and a delicious spine-tingler - proof positive that that neglected genre, the ghost story, isn't dead after all.
My Review: I really did enjoy this story, though it’s not in my normal genre of reading. But as tastes vary, I would say this would definitely be a good read for fans of less modern styles of writing, with a spine tingling plot to boot. While I do feel it’s an injustice to review this book so long after reading it, seeing the film did encourage me to go back through my recollection of the book and critique it thus. Though perhaps not the most terrifying story out there, this book did give me slight chills and hesitate before turning out the light.

Hill's writing style is compelling and keeps you turning the page. I will admit to reading this late into the night and reluctantly placing it aside so I could get some much needed sleep. Definitely a very fine written ghost story, that made me glance around corners and keeps lights on... (I do not believe in ghosts, mind you) ;)
We start off in the present life of Arthur Kipps, who in turn goes back and tells us the story of his encounter with the Woman in Black, a ghost who haunts the Eel Marsh House. Throughout the story, we encounter his experience with a specter set on revenge.
Characters: The characters themselves were few, but their personalities truly did stand out. I like the way Arthur realized he was encountering something of the supernatural sort rather than try and come up with some nonlogical explanation for what was happening around him. I also liked the relationship between him and the wealthy landowner, Mr. Daily, which added a bit more calm to the otherwise creepy tale...
Plot: The writing style of this story is clearly written with sophistication and  poise. The story is told with vivid description and suspense. While not a fan personally of this normal type of story telling and the depth in which the author tells her tale, I did appreciate the good writing qualities and the imaginative plot line.
Disclaimers: There are some thematic elements that may be either frightening or upsetting to younger (or more sensitive) readers. This book is clean through and through, though a minor bit of language I do recall. It is also slightly creepy. *SPOILERS* It is known that after seeing the ghost, a child will die. The ending is rather blunt, with a very young child dying in a carriage accident.
Favorite Character: N/A
Favorite Quote: 
Whatever was about, whoever I had seen, and heard rocking, and who had passed me by just now, whoever had opened the locked door was not 'real'. No. But what was 'real'? At that moment I began to doubt my own reality.
A man may be accused of cowardice for fleeing away from all manner of physical dangers but when things supernatural, insubstantial and inexplicable threaten not only his safety and well-being but his sanity, his innermost soul, then retreat is not a sign of weakness but the most prudent course.
Recommended: Older teens & up
Over-all Rating: ★★★★☆

~ Darkitty

***Next week: The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack & Wither***

If you liked the book, see the movie. Coming soon to dvd!

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