Book Review: The Woman in Black

Warning: Do not read this book after dark unless you are prepared to be frightened!!

Last Halloween my Dad had the ‘brilliant idea’ of watching the film version of The Woman in Black starring Daniel Radcliffe. This in spite of the fact that all of us who were home that night are terrible with horror movies, and he couldn’t even sit through the 1989 adaption. Needless to say we were all scared out of our wits, and got no peace until the story was ended.

You might be surprised then that I decided to read the novel by Susan Hill, on which both these movies was based. Be assured, I did so only in daylight hours, as the one time I tried to read it in bed I found the chilling atmosphere described too much to bear. Feel free to label me a chicken in the comments, but maybe horror and ghost stories just aren’t my thing.

Plot

Arthur Kipps is relaxing at home with his second wife and her adult children, when they decide to revisit an old tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. After the youngsters have all had their turn, they turn to Arthur, insisting that everyone knows at least one ghost story. He responds by leaving the room and refusing to discuss the matter further. Later he admits (to the reader) that he has had experiences of the supernatural that mean he cannot enjoy ghost stories, and decides to write an account of his past, which will be left to his family for them to read after his death.

Arthur then takes us back to the days of his youth, when as a young solicitor he was sent to an out of the way village, to attend to the funeral and estate papers of a recluse, Mrs Alice Drablow. Whenever he mentions his business to the locals, they immediately change the subject, and Arthur must discover the horrifying truth about Eel Marsh House and it’s tragic past for himself.

Having already said that horror stories aren’t really my thing, it would be pointless to suggest that I really enjoyed The Woman in Black. Even so, it was well written, the descriptions were believable and created the right kind of atmosphere for the different parts of the story. The characters were also relatable and it was easy to care about what happened to them. Obviously my reading of the book was coloured by having seen the movie first, but I think the book was actually less frightening – not just because I had an idea of where the story was heading – but because some of the elements of the story were altered or enhanced in the film version to add more of a chill factor. If horror stories are your thing, then I would recommend you read The Woman in Black. Even if they’re not, you still might want to try it!

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