My Review of the Woman in Black by Susan Hill

WomanInBlackIn 2012, the Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe, was one of the scariest shows I’d seen since The Others with Nicole Kidman in 2001. Little did I know that the story was a book before it became a movie. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found two stories by the author, Susan Hill. The first story by Ms. Hill that I read was The Small Hand (see my review here). Now I usually don’t read a book when I’ve seen the movie because it seems like a lot of effort to go over a story that you are already aware of the ending. I made an exception with this story because I wanted to get below the surface of the movie and learn all the sordid little details that I couldn’t by watching. I was happy with the outcome.

The story begins in Monk’s piece – where Mr. Arthur Kipps resides with his second wife 400 feet from the River Nee where it winds through pastures and woodland, two miles from a village, seven from a city where they do most of their shopping. This peaceful setting is torn away when Kipps is challenged by his step-children to tell a ghost story, something the entire family participated in one holiday evening around the fireplace. He declines to tell a ghost story but several days later he begins to write one.

The ghost story focuses on his life at 23. Kipps was a young lawyer asked to sort out the affairs of a Mrs. Alice Drablow, recently passed, of Crythin Gifford, with a house on Eel Marsh across Nine Lives Causeway. He was asked by his employer, Mr. Bentley, to represent the firm at the client’s funeral and go through her documents and bring any important papers back to the office. When he arrives in the village Kipps works with his contact, Mr. Jerome, befriends Samuel Daily and Sam’s dog, Spider.

He soon learns after looking through the paperwork accumulated in the house that Drablow’s sister, Jennet Eliza Humfrye, had a child out-of-wedlock and gave the child, Nathaniel, to Alice to raise. Kipps, through reading and talking to townsfolk, learns there was a tragic accident along the causeway of the marsh. Kipps is haunted and pushed to madness while piecing together the story of Eel Marsh and again a year later.

Susan Hill is talented at building up suspense and getting your heart racing with a phrase or word. (Makes me wonder if she’s had any ghostly experiences in her life.) If you enjoy being titillated while reading a book safe in your own home, get this one; even if you’ve seen the movie! It is highly entertaining.

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