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
First published 1983
Book source: Purchased
Thrill Week is hosted at Tea Time with Marce.