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Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Woman In Black by Susan Hill

I am back to the blog after taking a little bit of a break to navel-gaze and think about how exactly I can make the most of my time and fit in everything I need to do. It just got to a point where I was feeling like there are simply not enough hours in the day - drained and burnt out. In addition, I had a bit of a run of reading mediocre and uninspiring books, and had little inclination to sit down and make the effort to document my thoughts on them. But after a short blogging holiday I am feeling more motivated to start again, so it should be business as usual from here on in!

In my absence I have been cracking on with the Literary Exploration Challenge and making good progress with that. I also found this great video over on Ariel Bissett's Youtube channel. She talks a lot of sense about compulsive book-buying and the wasted potential involved in having hundreds of books on your shelves that you'll never have time to read.

This really struck a chord with me so I've decided to set myself a challenge of sorts to try and rein in my book-buying habit - a 'three out, one in' system. It's been going to plan since I started at the beginning of April, but I have to confess I've been cheating a little by reaching mainly for the thinnest books on my shelves, little novellas I can whizz through in a day! Books like this one.


This is a something that I should have got around to reading ages ago. I had it lined up for my RIP challenge in the Autumn but just wasn't in the mood to read it back then. I tend to think that horror stories like this are perfect for dark and blustery days, but I eventually picked this up on a gloriously sunny Sunday and enjoyed it just the same, finishing it in a few hours.

Many people may be familiar with this spooky tale after seeing the successful movie adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe. I haven't seen it, so didn't have much idea of what to expect. Arthur Kipps is a junior solicitor trying to build a reputation and gain experience in his field. So when his boss offers him the chance to travel to the isolated rural town of Crythin Gifford to arrange the affairs of the recently deceased Mrs Alice Drablow, he agrees at once. On arrival in the town it is clear that something isn't quite right with the Drablow estate, but the locals keep their mouths tightly shut and diligent Arthur is determined to press on with his work. But a creeping sense of unease descends as he tries to uncover Mrs Drablow's secrets and find out the identity of the mysterious woman in black who seems to be keeping an eye on his every action.

This is a small and perfectly formed horror story written in the tradition of the Victorian Gothic classics. I'm not sure if I thought it good enough to be considered as a classic in its own right, but it is certainly very satisfying. Susan Hill's writing is beautifully descriptive and paints an incredibly vivid picture of the eerie, fog-drenched landscape of the salt marshes. It's one of those books where I truly don't see how the film could match up to the perfect images that the prose conjures up in your mind - I can't imagine it having the same impact. The suspense builds slowly up to a chilling climax. If anything stopped me from truly loving The Woman In Black it would be the fact that I didn't really engage with Arthur as a character and found him a little dull. However, it is short enough for that not to pose too great a problem. Give this a read if you're in the mood for some shivers down your spine.

14 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this creepy little read too. My main issue with it was the ending felt a bit abrupt for me. Still loved it, it succeeded in thoroughly creeping me out. You should definitely check out the movie now (I watched the movie after reading also) and while it didn't completely fail it was still enjoyable enough.
    Bonnie @ Sweet Tidbits

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    1. I will definitely try to get my hands on a copy of the movie now! I am interested to see how well the adaptation works.

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  2. I am trying to expand my reading horizons but don't think I can go as far as horror, even though I love Susan Hill's mystery series.

    On the topic buying too many books, I am definitely guilty of that and I see nothing wrong with going for the slim books on your shelves. At the end of 2012, I read a lot of books around 200 pages in length and really enjoyed the stories. I have tended toward briefer books this year, although most are not that short.

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    1. This is interesting because I read a couple of her mystery series (I presume you mean the Simon Serailler books - she may have written other mysteries that I'm not aware of) and I didn't really get on with them! I found them lacking in tension and not particularly gripping. This might be a good one to try if you aren't sure about horror books, mainly because it's so short! And Susan Hill's writing is so evocative that I think you'd enjoy it at least a little, even if you don't find the plot itself particularly interesting.

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    2. Yes, it was the Serailler series I was talking about. I can never remember the name. I find the main character irritating, but I guess it is the overall writing style I like. I have the most recent one to read soonish.

      That is a good suggestion, if I am going to try horror, try a short one like this. And I am sure I would like the writing.

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  3. Good to have you back Marie. I'm not surprised you feel burnt out and I know how overwhelming it sometimes feels that you have so many books to read. Lots of bloggers take a short holiday and their blogs are usually better for it.

    I read this one years ago. It is a classic and Hill at her best.

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  4. I love The Woman in Black. The stage version is even better.

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  5. I've quite fancied reading this one for some time, and also fancy watching the film, but I am too scared to try either! It is very frightening? I've heard the stage adaptation makes people jump. Perhaps one day I will be feeling brave and pick it up! I'm really glad you decided to take a break and that you feel better for doing it. I am guilty of letting blogging get on top of me and am going to have a short break soon. I like the video you shared, she makes some good points. Good luck with three out one in. I dont' actualy buy that many books at the moment but the backlog stares at me!

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    1. It isn't incredibly terrifying, no - although I have heard that the film is very 'jumpy' so maybe it would be best to try the book first if you are worried! The horror in the novel is of the slow, creepy kind rather than any sudden, heart-stopping shocks.

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  6. I should add that I'm glad you are back blogging though! x

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  7. This book had a really fantastic Gothic atmosphere, doesn't it? I was really impressed at the way she set a scene up.

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  8. I didn't know the book, but it seems interesting. I'm not a reader of horror books, so I still don't know which boook choose for the challenge. Step by step ;)

    I loved the video, how many truths she says!! heheheee
    I should do something about all the books I own and I still haven't read too, and I think they are more than 100 (ooops).

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  9. This is a book that have interest me for a while now, until I saw the movie...
    I am too scared to read it.

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    1. Haha, don't be scared! It's a good book. It's creepy rather than properly scary, I'm sure you would manage.

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