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She's back in black...
The Woman in Black - Susan Hill
Member Name: Sam_Garland
The Woman in Black - Susan Hill
Advantages: Excellent gothic novel.
Disadvantages: Short book, and at times the main character can be a little unbelievable .
The story begins with the main character, Arthur Kipps, struggling over the choice whether to tell his family his story. After agonising over the decision to write it down or not, he decides he will.
And it's a ghost story.
Mrs. Drablow is dead, and the young upcoming solicitor has been sent to sort out her affairs and documents (quite similar to the main character from Dracula in this respect). When Arthur arrives at the town of Crythin Gifford he is pleased by the pleasant calm and familiarity of the towns inhabitants. However, after describing his business at the Inn he is staying in, the locals begin to avoid him and warn him against going to the remote homeplace of the deceased Mrs. Drablow... Eel Marsh House.
Kipps, being a rational man committed to becoming a partner in the law firm, goes anyway. Once there, he finds that the house is only accessible through a lengthy causeway in the marshes, which is completely underwater in some parts of the day. At night, the path is covered by the tide and a thick fog that means leaving by carriage is impossible.
But for the first night, there are no problems, except maybe the mysteriously locked door at the end of the upstairs corridor, and he decides that the fear of the towns inhabitants must just come from local superstition.
Then, at the funeral of Mrs. Drablow, he sees the Woman in Black. As the mystery of the woman develops before him, Arthur learns that there's more to the house than meets the eye, and nothing in Crythin Gifford is quite what it seems.
When the Woman In Black takes an interest in Arthur, he finds himself unable to continue rationalising the terrifying events that follow...
Susan Hill's novel is completely gripping, from start to finish. Her character development, although a little unbelievable at times, is accomplished very well and the gradual change in Kipps's character is excellent. The descriptions of Arthur's experiences and the appearance of the woman are very atmospheric, as is the isolated setting of the house in the marshes. She uses common, solid themes from the Gothic genre and adapts them well to her story.
There are few main characters, and the book revolves soley around Kipps - unfortunately, this means that other characters you'd like to see more of are a little overlooked and unexplained.
Written in the early 1970's, the Woman In Black reads like it comes from an earlier period - the style has all the characteristics of a turn of the century gothic novel. It's an excellent way of delivering the story, and Hill adapts to this style seamlessly.
As previously said, the only negative thing I can think of is that Kipps' continued desire to rationalise events does become slightly unbelievable further into the book, but the story is imaginative enough for that not to be much of a significant problem.
Pricewise, it's a fairly cheap book. My copy is pretty thin and cost £3.99 from Borders and it's likely to be a similar price elsewhere.
If you enjoy reading a more chilling type of story, this is one I would definitely recommend to you. Plus, it is a short novel that you really could read in one exciting session.
Summary: Short gothic novel, well worth a read!