The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (this review contains spoilers!)
Read: based on the recommendation of Raych at books i done read. (David R Godine, 144 pages)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (finished 1/24/10)
Synopsis: 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.
Overall Impression: I took Raych’s review as a challenge, as it said that only something like 20 libraries in the country had copies of The Woman in Black. But the challenge was easily met since my local library had a copy. Challenge complete! The Woman in Black (quite different than The Woman in White, which I read in ’08) was a quick read — only 144 pages, with little pen-and-ink illustrations — and I really enjoyed it. It was a ghost story. Like, an actual ghost story. With ghosts. Not a book in which you think there are going to be ghosts but it turns out to be Uncle Snodgrass covered in a bedsheet going “wooooo.” Nope, there are real, dead ghosts. The story itself is fairly simple — young lawyer heads to the Big Scary House out in the marsh to gather some documents after an old window dies. Super creepy things commence. It was scary enough to make my skin crawl (especially when I was reading this and no one else was around…it really played on the fear of being alone), but not so much that I wanted to close the book. The ending, as noted by other bloggers, was quite pat…a little too pat, but it did make sense in the overall scheme of things. I was impressed by Hill’s writing. I kept assuming the author was turn-of-the-century, not from 1986. Well done on that as well.
Pros: Good writing, interesting characters, creepy ghosts, a fuzzy dog.
Cons: The ending was a little too spot on. A different twist would have been nice.
Other books I’ve read by Susan Hill: none