September 13, 2011

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill: Review

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Now for something completely creepy.

During the holidays, Arthur Kipps finally sits down to write about an experience that's haunted him since it happened many, many years ago. Back when he was a shiny-eyed young lawyer out to prove himself, he was given an assignment that sent him off to the far corners of England: to attend a client's funeral and then go to her house to find her important papers. Right away he gets the feeling things are a bit off. The client is, as his boss puts it, a rum'un. Still Arthur heads off confident he can get things together and be back right quick.

When Arthur arrives, he gets the cold shoulder from the locals. In fact, they act as if he might give them leprosy.  Even village lawyer is jumpy. Then there's the house. Eel Marsh House. It's a very fine house but it's in the middle of a marsh and can only be accessed when the tide is out. Once it's in, you're stuck there. No. Way. Out. Sounds inviting.

Arthur has someone take him to the house to do his business and that's when the bad things start to happen.

I don't want to give too much away since The Woman in Black by Susan Hill is less than 200 pages and there are creepy surprises. Hill did an excellent job building both atmosphere and suspense. The reader and Arthur have no idea what is going on. He knows that what he is experiencing is real and that others have experienced it too but no one will talk about it. The people he tries to talk to give him looks of both fear and pity. He doesn't know why and the reader is dying to know too!

The Woman in Black has the feel of a Victorian novel but from what I pieced together it must be set in the mid-20th century (there are cars, electricity, and a headstone reads 190-). It has that odd quality that it could be any time period. The town is so isolated and the means of getting to the house old-fashioned. The atmosphere is bone chilling. There are impenetrable fogs, known as frets, that envelope the house that make it impossible to leave even if the tide is low. I wish it had been foggy when I read this. It would have been perfect! Even without the fog, I was creeped out. There were moments where the book could have used some time in the freezer.

And the end....whew!.... all I can say is you do not want to see the woman in black.

Highly recommended.

Ratings:


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17 comments :

  1. This was a great book, especially if you like creepy. Hill does a great job building up to the ending. I'm looking forward to the movie. I think some of the book may not come across as well in a movie but I'd still like to see it.

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  2. I just read this one as well and I loved it! It was the perfect amount of creepiness.

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  3. I read The Man in the Picture earlier this year. I might have to try and read this one by her next!

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  4. I really enjoyed this one. So atmospheric and creepy. Yes - a potential freezer book too. I jut read a synopsis of the upcoming movie and was disappointed in the changes to the story that it will have. I need to read The Man in the Picture.

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  5. Amy- The visuals should be impressive with the woman in black, the house and the fog.

    Melissa- It's definitely on my list of top Halloween reads.

    Kelly & Suzi- I'm reading that one now. Not quite the same but good.

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  6. Darn you, Chris!!! I've been jonesing for some Susan Hill goodness for the RIP VI challenge and EVERY used bookstore I've visited has been completely sold out of her work. Methinks I see a library trip in my very near future. This one sounds GREAT.

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  7. This sounds like a great book to read in October!

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  8. When I first saw the cover, my first reaction was creepy. Sounds scary. Never heard of the book or author, but I will definitely not forget either.

    Thanks for sharing a new read.

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  9. Oh, a great book for wintry evenings, I like creepy and I like your review and I like your rating system which is ingenious and...well.. I don't like the style of my comment but I promise to improve. I am your new follower, after all so there's some room for improvement, isn't it?

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  10. Oooo, I've been eyeing this one for ages. It sounds delicious. (I did peek at the trailer, which also looks and sounds like great fun, but of course will have to read the book first.)

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  11. I have never heard of this book but based on your review, Chris, I will find this one. It sounds awesomely creepy - - I love Victorian gothic like books and this seems to fit the bill.
    Thanks for the fantastic review!

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  12. This one has been on my wishlist forever but I just haven't gotten it yet. Now I'm going to immediately go and hunt down the one with the gorgeous cover that you've posted and treat myself (especially because I want to read it before I see the film)!

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  13. Andi- To the library, lady!

    kathy- Definitely!

    Lena- Hope you give her a try.

    Anachronist- Thanks for visiting!

    Buried- The trailer is so scary. Can't wait to see the movie.

    Lori- I love a scary read this time of year.

    Kristen- Good luck! I hope you find it.

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  14. This sounds fanTAStic. I especially like the idea of an inaccessible house... super creepy!

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  15. Oh, how I loved this book. It is so completely creepy. You should give The Man in the Picture a try; I found it to be just as completely creepy as this one. And shorter, too!

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  16. Oh, yes. This is definitely one I've been meaning to read for a couple of years now. I need to read it before Daniel Radcliffe gets all famous again because of this new movie.

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  17. "Sounds inviting." *snort* Yes, indeed.

    Just like you, I loved how the house was so incredibly cut off and the time frame of the novel seemed to be anywhere from 1800s to 1900s. It definitely gave it an air of timelessness, which I think added all the more to the creepiness.

    Great review! Happy reading to you!

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