Review: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

I am not really into horror literature or super scary stories….I haven’t read any Stephen King or V.C. Andrews because I would like to be able to sleep at night.

However this Halloween season, I got inspired to pickup a ghost story. Maybe it’s because I went to watch Crimson Peak and was eager to read something similar…..but I decided to pick up The Woman in Black as I am a sucker for Gothic novels so this sounded right up my alley.

Arthur Kipps is a young London solicitor who has been dispatched to the small windswept town of Crythin Gifford with its salt marshes and fog that rolls in and leaves the town feeling rather ghostly. Kipps is there to attend a funeral and settle the affairs of his client, Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House.

Mrs. Drablow’s crumbling old house stands at the end of Nine Lives Causeway, a small strip of land that leaves the house cut off from the rest of the town at high tide. It’s a house cloaked in fog and mystery, but Kipps is unaware of the tragic secrets that lie hidden behind its sheltered windows.

Almost immediately upon arriving at Crythin Gifford, Kipps notices a mysterious woman at the funeral of Mrs. Drablow…..a woman with a ghostly white face and who happens to disappear without a trace. The towns people try and warn Kipps to avoid Eel Marsh House, but he must go there to sort our the affairs. While he is at the house, mysterious things start to happen to him. It becomes pretty evident that the house is haunted and the ghost has malicious intentions.

Having not read a lot of ghost stories, I am not very familiar with the genre, but it seems as though most ghost stories are just that…..stories. Short and to the point with minimal character development. Something you would tell around a campfire. I basically read The Woman in Black in one sitting. At under 200 pages, it was a super fast read.

While there was plenty to like, I wanted more. Was I creeped out by the story, yes. Was I able to sleep at night, yes….so it wasn’t THAT scary. I actually felt like it would have been REALLY scary if it had been longer and had more character development as well as letting the story develop and those feelings of ‘scariness’ or ‘creepiness’ evolve and build.

The backstory about the Drablow family was really intriguing and if the story had had more time to develop, I think it would have been 100 times more scary. That said though, there was a lot to like in the story. It was a quick read full of classic Gothic symbolism and atmosphere.

The crumbling house, the family secret, the foggy/stormy coast, the hints of madness……the chilling feeling I got from this book was just what I was looking for. It was enough to scare me but not so much that I didn’t want to keep reading. I just wish it was longer and offered more in the way of development and scariness but over all it wasn’t bad. As I said it seems to be common for ghost stories to be shorter and more story like in nature versus ‘novel’ so it fulfilled a need but at the same time, it could have been so much better!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

  • Kindle Edition, Reprint edition, 216 pages
    Published October 18th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1983)
  • Review copy provided by: Personal collection

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 3 out of 5

Genre: Historical fiction, horror, suspense, thriller, ghost stories, Gothic lit

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