In honor of Daniel Radcliff’s upcoming film The Woman in Black, I took the opportunity to read the novel on my Kindle. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill costs $9.99 in the Amazon store and I have to be honest when I say that I’ve read better books that were free. The Woman in Black is certainly a good story, but if you’re a voracious reader, it may run a little boring for you.
Susan Hill first published The Woman in Black in 1983, but it reads as a much older novel. You’ll be transported to a different time, although it’s difficult to get a grasp on exactly what time period that is. The story follows Arthur Kipps, a London lawyer who is sent to the small town of Crythin Gifford to settle the estate of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Crythin Gifford is surrounded by salt marshes and Eel Marsh House is impossible to get to, except for at certain times of the day and night. The use of foggy marshes really sets an ominous tone and the position Kipps is put in is a frightening one, as a causeway keeps him from being able to leave Eel Marsh House whenever a haunting sets in.
I enjoyed this read, certainly. But there was something about the set-up and ultimate outcome that really disappointed me. Not only did the book read as a chilling thriller, but a mystery seemed to be unfolding. Inevitably, this mystery wasn’t as mysterious as I initially thought, and this was a big letdown. Also, many reviewers have written that this novel, “chilled them to the bone,” and “was terrifying,” but I have to disagree. I may be desensitized from Stephen King novels and other horror writers, but this novel didn’t leave me afraid. It left me wanting a mystery, something I couldn’t figure out. Unfortunately, I figured out the whole novel halfway through. I didn’t trust myself, thought maybe there was something I was missing and ultimately it ended just the way I assumed it was.
Is The Woman in Black a good book? It certainly is. It’s a short read. It took me away for an afternoon and evening and I appreciated the writing style. If you’re a fan of novels like Turn of the Screw and Rebecca, this novel will suit you. Although, it is a hundred years dated from Turn of the Screw and so the plot is nothing new and highly predictable. I’m going to wait to watch the film until I can rent it, but I must admit I’m excited to see what modern film is going to do with a highly dated and predictable storyline. I have a strong inclination that the film is going to be much more frightening than the book was.