Book Review: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The Woman in BlackTitle: The Woman in Black
Author: Susan Hill
Genre: Horror / Ghost Story / Gothic
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 160
Started: 10th May 2016
Completed: 14th May 2016
Rating: 4/5
Summary: 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 sees the woman again; he also hears the terrifying sounds on the marsh.

Despite Kipps’ experiences he resolves to spend the night at the house and fulfil his professional duty. It is this night at Eel Marsh House that contains the greatest horror for Kipps. Kipps later discovers the reasons behind the hauntings at Eel Marsh House. The book ends with the woman in black exacting a final, terrible revenge.

The Woman in Black is a horror novella written in the style of a classic Gothic novel. It was originally published in 1983 and a film adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe was released in 2012. I’ve never seen the film but I do plan on watching it this autumn. The book has also been adapted into a stage play which runs on the West End.

This is going to be a fairly short review.

I loved the atmosphere that Hill was able to create. I was on edge throughout the book and I think that it was helped by the time period that the book was set in as the 19th century just seems to lend itself to stories of the supernatural.

The characters were interesting and well rounded. You learn a lot about Arthur Kipps and his life and you even get to meet his family which I found unusual in a book like this. It made complete sense to introduce his wife and children though as the story is framed by the family telling ghost stories to each other.

The plot is intriguing and interesting. There will be no spoilers in this review so I won’t say anything about the plot at all. However, I think that the plot is fantastic and it kept me on the edge of my seat.

Finally, I enjoyed Hill’s writing style for The Woman in Black. She manages to imitate the classic Gothic style from the late 18th and early 19th centuries wonderfully but it’s much easier to read thanks to the modern spelling. It gave the feeling of a Gothic novel without committing fully to being a Gothic novel and I really enjoyed that.

The only thing that I didn’t like was the length of the novel. It was only 160 pages and it felt a tad rushed at times. I do think that some of the plot points could have been expanded which would have added to the atmosphere of the novel. I just wish that it was a little bit longer.

The Woman in Black is a wonderful little paranormal novel and I really enjoyed reading it. I’d definitely recommend it, especially if you love paranormal books and ghost stories. However, I don’t read many paranormal books/ghost stories and I really enjoyed it. Also, if you’re interested in the style of Gothic books then this is a fantastic book to read because it’s written in the classic Gothic style but without the 18th century spelling. I’d suggest reading it at Hallowe’en or perhaps just on a stormy autumn night.


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