The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Young lawyer arthur Kipps is sent to the remote village of Crythin Gifford, to sort out the estate of the late Alice Drablow.  Mrs Drablow lived in isolation in Eel Marsh House, which can only be accessed by the temperamental Nine Lives Causeway.

As part of his duties, Arthur attends Mrs Drablow’s funeral, and while there, sees a young woman dressed all in black.  However, when he tried to make enquiries about the identity of the young woman, he finds that nobody wants to discuss it with him.

As Arthur heads to Eel Marsh House, he sees and senses things which make him question his safety and sanity, and realises that to make any sense of events, he needs to solve the mystery of the woman in black.

This book was a good read, but I had very high hopes for it and therefore ended up feeling slightly disappointed that I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would.  On the plus side, the sense of isolation and tension that Arthur felt at the old house was expertly portrayed.  The house almost became another character in the story, so well was the isolation and desolation therein depicted.

The story is told by an older Arthur, remembering the events of twelve years earlier.  As this is made clear from the very beginning of the book, it therefore becomes obvious to the reader that whatever happened, Arthur would live to tell the tale.  This did remove some of the suspense, but did not really detract from overall enjoyment.

However, as a horror story, it did not push all the right buttons.  It certainly did not frighten or disturb me (although other books have done), but rather, I saw it as a mystery, where I wanted to find out the reason behind all the events which happened.

There is only a small cast of characters, and many of them are peripheral, and I didn’t feel that we really got to know them.  The one character that stood out was a man who Arthur befriends named Samuel Daily, who was my favourite character when I had finished reading the book.

This book was written in the 1980s, but it feels almost as though it could have been written 100 years earlier.  The writing was very eloquent, and flowed easily.  It is a short novel – just over 150 pages, and therefore there wasn’t time for the reader to become bored.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but it certainly won’t be keeping me awake at night!

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