The Woman in Black – Susan Hill

Tense, atmospheric and terrifying – The Woman in Black is a story I read a long time ago (back when I was at school at it was part of our studies) and have taken a while to come back to. It’s not because it is a difficult or boring read – in fact the opposite is true – but rather because the sort of emotions that it draws within the reader leave you rather uncomfortable for a while after turning the last page. For that reason, as well as the masterful story-telling, this is a book that I would advise goes on everyone’s ‘must read’ list.

Set in the Victorian era, the story is told by Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor who travels to the secluded village of Crythin Gifford to sort out the papers of a recently deceased client. There, whilst attending the funeral, he witnesses a frail woman dressed entirely in black and, during the course of his time in the village and the clients secluded house, Eel Marsh House, from then on is faced with several terrifying visions that will completely change his life forever…

From the off, if you already seen the film version, I will say one thing – forget everything that happened in that story. Whilst it was a good adaptation it doesn’t come close to the original story and you will be sorely disappointed if you are expecting numerous shock moments at the end of every chapter.

Part of the appeal of this story is that it is very atmospheric and a very slow burner. You are taken through Kipps’ memories of the events and, as such, there are a lot of asides that talk about precisely how he was feeling on any given day and other such details that you might think are completely irrelevant. However, as the story moves towards its climax, all these details feed nicely into the narrative leaving you breathless as you turn each page but, somehow, unable to describe exactly what has happened that is so terrible until you come to final chapter.

It took me a day or two to write this review after I finally set down the book and, for a long while after I finished the final pages (which I warn you now ends very abruptly), what I had read left me feeling incredibly uneasy and, as such, immensely satisfied at this short ghost story.

If you are looking for a genuine ghost tale, The Woman in Black is a great choice to start you off – whether you’re a fan of horror or not, this is a book that every avid reader should have.

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