The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Today Mandie is taking a look at an older title, The Woman In Black by Susan Hill. She’s always wanted to read the book, so now seemed like as good a time as any. For the uninitiated, here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Owned Copy
Release Date: 10 October 1983
Publisher: Vintage

About the Book

Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is summoned to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, the sole inhabitant of Eel Marsh House. The house stands at the end of a causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but it is not until he glimpses a wasted young woman, dressed all in black, at the funeral, that a creeping sense of unease begins to take hold, a feeling deepened by the reluctance of the locals to talk of the woman in black – and her terrible purpose.

Mandie’s Thoughts

I have wanted to read The Woman in Black for quite some time and finally decided to indulge myself and buy a copy and make some me time to read it. I was quite surprised to find that this was a short book of only 200 pages but in those pages the author manages to convey quite a lot.

Arthur Kipps is sent to Crythin Gifford to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow and sort through her papers to determine if there is anything of importance. Whilst at the funeral he spots a woman, dressed in black who appears and disappears just as quickly. When he mentions this to others they seem to not to want to talk about her and encourage him to complete his work as quickly as possible. When Kipps has to cross the marshland to Eel Marsh House where Mrs Drablow used to live he spots the woman again. During his time there, strange things happen that he can’t explain but that will have a far-reaching impact on his life.

Susan Hill has managed to convey the desolate landscape that surrounds Eel Marsh House and add to the overall atmosphere of the book. Although the title of the book is The Woman in Black, the character herself does not appear a great deal but it is more about the reasons for her hauntings and the consequences from them. The descriptions of her appearance themselves conjure up something that leave you in no doubt that there is something otherworldly about her. Arthur Kipps goes from a self-assured, confident person to someone who ends up doubting his own mind and the story is told via his recollections of the time, but you can feel the tension build throughout. I can understand the sentiments of the locals not wanting to admit what would appear to an outsider as fantastical however at the same time you would hope that someone would prepare him for what he may encounter.

Quite often the argument of is the book or film version better rears its head, with most saying that for them the book always comes out on top. Having first seen the stage version, then the film version and finally read the book I think for me the stage version just tipped the scales slightly. Maybe it because of the way it was staged and some of the effects I was not expecting and made me jump or it could just be because I had seen it first, so I knew what was going to happen. That being said I would read it again in a heartbeat as it has the feel of a good old fashioned Gothic horror story.

About the Author

USAN HILL has been a professional writer for over fifty years. Her books have won awards and prizes including the Whitbread, the John Llewellyn Rhys and a Somerset Maugham, and have been shortlisted for the Booker. Her novels include Strange MeetingI’m the King of the CastleIn the Springtime of the Year and The Mist in the Mirror. She has also published autobiographical works and collections of short stories as well as the Simon Serrailler series of crime novels. The play of her ghost story The Woman in Black is one of the longest running in the history of London’s West End. In 2020 she was awarded a damehood (DBE) for services to literature. She has two adult daughters and lives in North Norfolk.

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