The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

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The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Katie Pullen
Reviewed by Katie Pullen
Summary: When Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor, is sent to attend the funeral of Mrs Drablow in the eerie town of Crythin Gifford, he sees the woman in black for the first time, a woman who will continue to haunt him in what is to become the most terrifying experience of his life. This is a classic ghost story, full of all the right ingredients, that is sure to send shivers down your spine. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Profile
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1846685620

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Arthur Kipps is a young solicitor working in a fog-bound London and soon to be married. All looks rosy for Arthur until one day he is called into his boss' office where he is tasked with the affairs of the deceased recluse Alice Drablow. Alice Drablow had lived in the melancholy village of Crythin Gifford in an isolated house on the remote Eel Marsh, a house only accessible by a strange causeway when the tide is out. It is here Arthur must travel to firstly represent his firm at her funeral and then to sift through Mrs Drablow's house to ensure all her legal paperwork is in order.

At Mrs Drablow's funeral, Arthur sees the mysterious woman in black for the first time. She is dressed in old-fashioned attire of the deepest black and appears to be disfigured in some way, surely suffering from some terrible wasting disease that will soon kill her. Arthur sees the strange woman again on his first visit to Mrs Drablow's house, and soon it becomes clear to Arthur that there is a story behind this woman and that the villagers of Crythin Gifford know of her and yet will not talk about her. As he continues his work, all alone on Eel Marsh, in a house surrounded by water, quicksand, mist, fog and strange occurrences, Arthur is determined to find out more about the woman in black, little realising he is about to experience the most terrifying ordeal of his life.

This is probably one of the best ghost stories I have ever read. It may only be a relatively short book, but it certainly packs a punch as Susan Hill cleverly utilises all the right ingredients for a ghost story, but not in a clichéd or trite manner, fitting it all together perfectly and convincingly.

Eel Marsh is the perfect setting for her story. It is a soulless place, cut off from the equally isolated village of Crythin Gifford, and only accessible when the tide is out, thereby potentially trapping its inhabitants. I found myself wondering who in their right mind would choose to live in such a place, particularly as the narrow road which leads to it when the tide is out is named Nine Lives Causeway?

The weather throughout the book is just as soulless and eerie as its setting, and its presence in the book is vital to the story. The weather is almost a character in itself, such is its importance to Arthur's frightening story, creating atmosphere and tension, telling us we should be afraid, warning us something terrible is going to happen. It's hard to imagine the story having such an impact if the sun was constantly shining.

This story is certainly a timeless one, as there are no clear references to when it is set which certainly adds another element of mystery and will surely continue to make this a classic for decades to come. I definitely recommend reading it in one sitting, preferably alone, on a dark, cold winter's night, in front of an open fire, as this is sure to make it all that much scarier.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further Reading Suggestion: If you like the sound of this book, you may also enjoy The Small Hand by Susan Hill or The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.

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