Review: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

I haven’t read many ghost stories, but this is Thrill Week and they did make The Woman in Black by Susan Hill into a movie. Not that I’ve seen it, I rarely watch scary movies.

To be honest, I expected this to be scarier, creepier, make me not want to read it at night. The concept was good: Arthur Kipps, a lawyer from London, is sent to Crythin Gifford, a small town on the moors in eastern England to attend the funeral of Mrs. Alice Drablow, and to sort through her papers. It is at the funeral that Kipps first sees the woman in black and begins to gain an impression of the mystery surrounding her. After the funeral he travels to Eel Marsh House and sees the woman again; he also hears terrifying sounds on the marsh.

Despite his experiences and against the advice of the townsmen, Arthur resolves to spend the night at the isolated house in order to get through the job quicker. His stay turns into a any nightmare of events and sensations: the rocking of a chair in the nursery of the deserted house, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and, most dreadfully most tragically, the woman in black. Slowly he discovers her secrets and her revenge.

The atmosphere was perfect – a spooky house, isolated from town by a causeway only passable at low tide. The house is large and deserted and next a ruin and old graveyard. The main character/narrator was good, a sensible young man, skeptical of anything supernatural. He told the story with an almost calmness that contrasted well with the unexplainable events and the woman in black. The woman herself was rather a stereotypical ghost, haunting the spot where she died, angry and grief-stricken, apparently determined to cause others the same pain she feels.

But it just didn’t work. I didn’t really care. There was only one moment that had me biting my nails, reading quickly to see what happens. The adorable smart little dog was in trouble and I didn’t know for sure he would be saved. Other than that though it was good enough to keep my attention but not outstanding. I am tempted to watch the movie though, see how the story works in that format.

Of course, like I said, I don’t read many ghost stories, so I’m probably not the best person to listen to. It seemed fairly predictable, but maybe that’s part of the allure of ghost stories and I just haven’t read enough to appreciate it.

2½ out of 5 stars

Category: Ghost

Amazon IndieBoundBook Depository

First published 1983
216 pages

Book source: Purchased

Thrill Week is hosted at Tea Time with Marce.


  1. Yet to read the book. We watched the film a few weeks ago and though without a doubt it was wonderfully spooky (I jumped on several occasions) and full of atmosphere I’m afraid it was otherwise rubbish, the ending beyond disappointing.

  2. It must be because I’m a complete scaredy-cat (someone who watches horror movies with both hands in front of her face) but this book creeped me out. I know that scene you’re talking about and that’s the one which made me wish I had read this book when I was not alone in the house.

  3. I’m a big fan of Susan Hill but have not read this yet. I’ve heard it is along the lines of the Gothic ghost story, such as Wilkie Collins, which I’m also attracted to, but again I must also say I love ghost stories!

  4. I didn’t mind this but I think that’s because I wanted an old fashioned gothic style of book and I felt that Hill did manage to pull that off.
    But now I’m all intrigued about the Wilkie Collins Haunted Hotel book – I really liked the Woman in White and the Moonstone so this has great potential. *goes away to look….*
    Lynn 😀

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