Review: The Woman in Black- Susan Hill

As usual whenever I see the advert for a film that looks amazing I rush out to buy the book and read that first. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill is a gripping, thrilling novel that deserves the recognition it has widely received since its publication in 1983. A revival of the ghost story genre that seems to have died out since authors such as Henry James and his wonderful novel The Turn of the Screw, The Woman in Black has quickly grown in popularity. Not only is it the second longest running stage play in the UK, but it has also recently been a huge success across the country in its movie adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe.

Arthur Kipps is a serious young lawyer who is sent north to the foggy, remote village of Crythin Gifford to put the affairs of a lately deceased client in order. At the client’s funeral (by the name of Mrs Drablow) Arthur sights a woman dressed in black, which apparently no one but him sees. With all the hallmarks of a classic ghost story, there is a sense of unease as the villagers are unwilling to talk about the woman in black and refuse to disclose the terrifying secret behind her appearance. Arthur must cross the dangerous marshes to the crumbling ruin of Eel Marsh House in order to arrange the documents of the late Mrs Drablow, but the situation is not as simple as that. Events at the house quickly plunge Arthur into a feverish state of overwhelming terror, as he realises that the menacing  stories that pervade the village are true; the woman in black is linked to the house, and will not rest in peace.

‘I glanced around once again round the burial ground and then I saw again the woman with the wasted face who had been at Mrs Drablow’s funeral… she directed the purest evil and hatred and loathing, with all the force that was available to her…her eyes, sunken but unnaturally bright, were burning with the concentration of passionate emotion which was within her and streamed from her… I could not bear to stay there, for fear, but nor had I any strength left in my body to turn and run away, and I was as certain as I had ever been of anything that, at any second, I would drop dead on that wretched patch of ground.’

It is clear to readers that the woman in black is always ominously prominent as the novel progresses and it manages to maintain the perfect balance of suspense and tension; a classic combination for the ghost story genre, but effortlessly carried out by the author. Hill writes in a slow, drawn out style as Arthur relates to the reader his experience with the woman in black, and keeps you itching to find out the truth. We are left to constantly ask who is the woman in black, and why does she infuse Eel Marsh house with such power and malevolence? A fantastic read that has proved that the ghost story can never be tired of, and still has unbelievable power to frighten its readers. A must for any reader as it urges us to question if there is a presence in our everyday lives, and if it could ever if possible, be as dangerous or terrifying as the one in Hill’s novel.

Rating: 4/5

Do I recommend you to read it? A good old fashioned ghost story, enjoyable even for the sceptics among us.

Genre: ghost story