The Woman In Black Paperback – 6 Aug 1998
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"No one chills the heart like Susan Hill" (Daily Telegraph)
"An excellent ghost story… magnificently eerie… compulsive reading" (Evening Standard)
"A rattling good yarn, the sort that chills the mind as well as the spine" (Guardian)
"Heartstoppingly chilling" (Daily Express)
"Terrifying... creepy classic" (Daily Mail)
"Susan Hill is the reigning queen of ghost writers and her period novella…is a classic, broodingly creepy and at times terrifying" (Michael Hogan Observer)
"Hill’s haunting tales may be slim, but they pull no punches…" (Harper's Bazaar)
"She writes with great power… Authentically chilling" (Daily Telegraph)
"One of the strongest stories of supernatural horror...the work bursts into life and does not flag until the end" (Washington Post)
"Irresistibly dramatic... Susan Hill has done the genre real honour" (Chicago Tribune)
Proud and solitary, Eel Marsh House surveys the windswept reaches of the salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway. Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is summoned to attend the funeral Mrs Alice Drablow, the house's sole inhabitant, unaware of the tragic secrets which lie hidden behind the shuttered windows. 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.See all Product description
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Arthur Kipps, now a middle aged man on his second marriage, is immured in a family Christmas. His teenage stepsons embark, in high spirits, on the telling of ghost stories
Unwillingly, the years roll back memories of a quarter of a century and more ago, when Kipps, then a young solicitor, was sent to deal with the estate of a recently deceased reclusive woman in her eighties, who had lived in isolation in a house at Eel Marsh, some distance form a little market town called Crythin Gifford. Eel Marsh can only be reached when the tide is out, and is then completely cut off from the outside world, and the outside world from it, once the tide comes in again. There was some unexplained horror to do with Eel Marsh. Locals drop veiled hints, but Kipps, a pragmatic, modern young man, not given to flights of fancy is of course dismissive..............until.
This is a proper Victorian Gothic style story, even though set in a modern era. Everything is done through its effect on Kipps, the slow drip drip of fear and horror into his psyche. It's a superb ratcheting up of horror, and there is nothing to cynically laugh at, no crass clankings of chains and slamming doors, opening graves and the like. Hill takes normalcy and just progressively makes it go wrong, chill and definitely evil.
"We had travelled perhaps three miles, and passed no farm ofr cottage, no kind of dwelling house at all, all was emptiness. Then, the hedgerows petered out, and we seemed to be driving towards the very edge of the world. Ahead, the water gleamed like metal.....I realized this must be the Nine Lives Causeway.....and saw, how, when the tide came in, it would quickly be quite submerged and untraceable........we went on, almost in silence, save for a hissing, silky sort of sound. Here and there were clumps of reeds, bleached bone-pale, and now and again the faintest of winds caused them to rattle dryly"
And that's BEFORE the sea-frets come!
A short, chilly, chilly read. Hill is a writer who understands less is more and has no need for crude schlock effects.
The story is set partly in London and partly in the Countryside. Christmas Eve and a family are telling Ghost Stories. Is this an ordinary ghost story, No!!!! this is a ghost story, where a solicitor travels to the countryside to look after the affairs of a dead woman. He stays in the local Inn, where the landlord will not talk about the dead lady, nor the house where she lived, other than to tell him not to stay there. The funeral comes, and he notices that beside him and the local solicitor there is a female attendee at the funeral service. His companion however, cannot see her.
He travels to the house where he feels slightly on edge, he takes a walk and finds some old ruins, where he sees the lady again. After following her, he finds himself, lost in the moss and moors, the fog comes in, he does find his way back to the house but is badly shaken.
The following morning waking up in the inn, he decides that he is going to stay at the house. A wealthy business man invites him for dinner that evening, and upon telling him that he is going to stay at the house, allows him to take one of his dogs for company. During the night he hears thuds and what seems like rocking from a room, that has no lock and no key to enter. The dog is a quivering mess.
The day after the door of the locked room has mysteriously opened of its own accord, and inside he finds a child's bedroom, complete with toys, bed and everything is intact, including the rocking horse, rocking back and forth.
That day he goes out for a walk, and hears a whistle, the dog sets off towards land, and gets into trouble in the bogs, he wades out and saves the dog. What is happening, why is this house completely encompassing him? Why can't he let it go?
A truly moving book, which makes you wonder, it is full of fear, trepidation and makes your mind work overtime. I would highly recommend it.
The woman in black was not penned during the Victorian age, but is set during it, and captures brilliantly this morbidity, the creepy Gothic settings, the sense of edge and danger all around.
It's been years since I dabbled in the black arts and indulged in a ghost story, but I'm glad I made an exception with the woman in black. Atmospheric, at times unnerving, and of course, it provided a great film adaption.