The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The Woman in Black is a ghost story told by Arthur Kipps.  The story begins in a traditional way with Arthur’s family gathered round the fire on Christmas Eve and telling ghost stories.  Arthur, who has real experience of ghosts undertakes to commit his story to paper.  His story begins when he is a young and ambitious solicitor, keen to progress and impress both his boss and girlfriend.  He is given an assignment to close the estate of a client who has just passed away and so travels to the east coast of the country (I must say that Arthur did put me in mind of Jonathon Harker from Dracula).

The client concerned is one Alice Drablow who lived a secluded existence at Eel Marsh house, arrived at by a causeway and surrounded not only by marshes and quicksand but also suspicion and fear.  The story really begins when Arthur notices a lonely woman, dressed in black, at Alice’s funeral – the only other person there.  The villagers refuse to speak of this woman let alone acknowledge any sightings of her and will have no dealings at all with Eel Marsh House.  Refusing to give in to superstition Arthur is determined to complete his task and decides to spend time at the house.

The story is of course filled to the brim with your classic ghost story pre-requisites.  A spooky and remote house, full of dark furniture and long corridors, a small village of frightened and superstitious people, changable weather, rolling mists, moonlit nights and slowly creeping feelings of dread.

I enjoyed reading this book, it’s only short, but I think that worked in it’s favour.  The chilly feeling slowly builds until the last few chapters where Arthur spends time alone (although he has his feisty little companion Spider to forewarn him of any ghostly appearances!).  Some of the night scenes are quite chilling in fact although overall I won’t say I found this book frightening.  What I really appreciated was the writing style. The book actually reads like an old fashion gothic novel which I think is a real accomplishment given that it was in fact written in the 80s.

I would recommend this book if you fancy a bit of a spooky story on a dark night.  It’s a subtle and old fashioned type of read however and won’t appeal to everyone.  There are no dreadful and evil monsters or spectacular gore fests.  The success of the book lies mainly in the brooding and myserious atmosphere which the author manages to create where eventually you almost find yourself holding your breath and listening out for noises yourself.

Rating B+


The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black

5 Responses to “The Woman in Black by Susan Hill”

  1. Becky the Bookette

    I am definitely not into ghost stories. I am a big wimp. But there is something very appealing about atmospheric literature.

    • lynnsbooks

      Hi Becky
      Have you read any Daphne Du Maurier – Rebecca and Jamaica Inn are really good.

  2. katie

    yeah nice

  3. Short and Sweet | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Woman in Black by Susan Hill […]

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