My first experience with the woman in Black was watching the film version that was released a few years ago – you know, the one with Harry Potter. Don’t get me wrong, I like Daniel Radcliffe, but I can’t say with all honesty that the film was the best of experiences and certainly not one that I could bear to repeat. However, recently the local theatre had a touring production of the stage play and I was recommended it. “much better than the film” I was urged, “more in line with the book”. Dubiously, I took the recommendation and…loved it. It’s amazing what a little sound affect, lighting, imagination and three, that’s right three, actors can achieve. Anyway, the result of this saunter to the theatre was that my partner, having stood in line for almost the entirety of the intermission, managed to bag herself a signed edition of the novel. Some wouldn’t recommend reading the woman in Black at night especially before putting your head down, but for better or worse that is what I did:

The story centres around Arthur, a solicitor who upon the death of one of the firms clients, is sent to attend the funereal and collect any important legal documents from the house of the deceased. The task at first appears to be a simple one, and upon his arrival to Crythin Gifford he is eager to complete his mission. His eagerness does not faultier, even when considering the strange and secretive behaviour of the locals. Despite Arthur’s stoic attitude it does not take him long to realise that Eeel Marsh house and it’s grounds also have their own secrets.

What is not a secret, however, is the fact that The Woman in Black is a ghost story. It says so right on the cover. From the evidence it’s not difficult to ascertain that the woman in black is said ghost. What is mystifying is the reason for her ‘being’. Although having seen the film and stage play did spoil this mystery, I can image that if I first came to the novel unspoiled, the question around her presence would be the most interesting part. Having said that, I was still thoroughly entertained by The Woman in Black.

Susan Hill’s use of the first person narrative puts you in the novel, a technique that is used by many a horror/terror writer but is not cliched due to the simple fact that if executed correctly, it works! I was thoroughly engrossed in Hill’s world of the woman in Black. The fear that Arthur feels is palpable, contagious even, and Hill’s ability to make even the weather appear a malignant, discontented character serves as an example of  her writing ability. Admittedly, I was not scared by the Novel but it created within me a sense of uneasiness1The following day, in the darkness of my house, I was took off guard by the shadowy outline of our Christmas tree. Under normal circumstances I would not have been bothered; but with the Woman in Black in the back of my mind…..

I for one, will be picking up more Susan Hill and although Halloween has long gone, Christmas is approaching, which in my opinion is as just a good time to read a ghost Story and The Woman in Black is definitively worth considering.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. The following day, in the darkness of my house, I was took off guard by the shadowy outline of our Christmas tree. Under normal circumstances I would not have been bothered; but with the Woman in Black in the back of my mind….