Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Woman In Black Review

The Woman in Black
- Susan Hill

Publisher: Vintage

Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor in London, is summoned to Crythin Gifford to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, and to sort through her papers before returning to London. It is here that Kipps first sees the woman in black and begins to gain an impression of the mystery surrounding her... From the funeral he travels to Eel Marsh House and hears the terrifying sounds on the marsh...

Arthur Kipps heads to a distant township on the edge of the marsh to see to the paperwork of the recently deceased Mrs Alice Drablow. The people he meets on the way behave oddly when they discover what he is there for and there is a certain atmosphere at the house which makes him uncomfortable – especially when he starts to discover the history of the place...

For some reason I had imagined that The Woman in Black is an older story than it is. It was first published in the early 1980s but with a long running stage show in London’s West End and the recent Daniel Radcliffe film it has a certain timeless quality to it. The book is much closer to the stage show than the recent film with the creeping horror built through atmosphere and description and is much stronger for it. There is no blood, little violence but the eeriness is palpable and the growing fear as you realise with Mr Kipps what is waiting for him at Eel Marsh House.

Again I am impressed at how much story and description can be squeezed into so few pages (authors take note – some stories don’t need a thousand pages!). The description is creepy and gothic, painting a bleak house on the edge of civilisation, only accessible at certain times and feels very much like the edge of the world as we know it. The true horror slowly builds up and while you might be tempted to say that the start is slow, it is merely laying the foundation for what follows. Like most ghost stories some of the horror stays after the events making you think continually on what happened – and what didn’t.

This is very much a traditional ghost story – like the sort you used to tell around the campfire at Halloween and a welcome change from many modern horror stories. This is a personal tale – no world ending fears, but as a result plays on your mind for longer. The pictures Susan Hill has painted will flicker into your mind at random times – like squelching through puddles on the way to work will give you a sudden flash to the path to Eel Marsh House through the tidelands – or it did me at least! Creepy and timeless – I think all horror fans should read this tale!

Recommended for fans of Dean Koontz and Wilkie Collins. 8.5 out of 10.


  1. My roommate bought a copy of this right after we went to see the movie, and you know, I still haven't read it yet! It's not like it's a long book; I really have no excuse!

  2. I'm actually a chicken, but still, like the atmosphere this one produces. Hm... maybe I'll gets some bravery and try it. :)

  3. great review, I really want to read this one, it sounds great!