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The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
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The Woman in Black (original 1983; edition 1997)

by Susan Hill

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1,7431374,050 (3.79)388
Member:kiwidoc
Title:The Woman in Black
Authors:Susan Hill
Info:
Collections:Read in 2009, Read but unowned
Rating:****1/2
Tags:Fiction. English.

Work details

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983)

Recently added byAlkmini_A, waeschle, LemieuxS, private library, Alirob, bexliterature, jg13, masland
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English (134)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (1)  All languages (137)
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
This story truly is the classic ghost story! The Woman in Black is one of the creepiest characters I have encountered before. The story begins when Arthur Kipps is at his home and his stepchildren are telling ghost stories. So he then decides that it is time to exorcist his own demon and write down what happened to him with his real encounter with the ghost of The Woman in Black. The story has a dark and dreary atmosphere. Something that struck me as something notable is once the tide goes up on the causeway you are basically trapped trapped at Eel Marsh House. Overall this is a vary well written story and I really enjoyed reading it. ( )
  Hpfan28 | Sep 19, 2014 |
The Basics

Arthur Kipps is a young solicitor in vague olden times (Victorian era England, I assume) who is sent out from London to deal with the very jumbled papers of the late Mrs. Drablow. He’s pretty happy about the whole affair until a ghost shows up. Sort of horror ensues.

My Thoughts

I had problems with this book. Firstly, there are people in this world who can write a first person narrative within a bygone era and sound as if they lived there themselves. And then there are those who sound as if they’re trying way too hard. Susan Hill is that second option, unfortunately. It hit me as soon as I started reading and didn’t relent at any point.

Next up, our main character. I didn’t really connect with this guy at all. Here is, I think, the crux of why. If the story had been handled in albeit a more cliche fashion, wherein Arthur is told some horrible story and remains brave in the face of it, it would’ve made more sense to me. Instead, he sees the ghost, sees the uniquely terrible expression it wears and reads it accurately. Experiences things that send him running with soiled britches. He’s even convinced there are ghosts haunting the estate and doesn’t try to placate himself with rational explanations. Then decides to go ahead anyway. This guy has no survival instinct whatsoever.

Yet when the eerie stuff starts, it’s good and eerie. That ending has a nice impact, as well. But saying, “oh, when you get to the good parts…” feels really cheap. I can’t recommend it based on a few good parts. Not to mention that any tension that could’ve been had from a mystery to be solved is wasted on the predictability of it. I had figured out what was going on at Eel Marsh House a lot quicker than Arthur did. I also foresaw that ending from about twenty pages away.

Do you like Victorian era, historical fiction? And ghost stories? Then this might be for you. I’m admittedly not that big of a ghost story fan, so that probably impacted me in the negative. As always, these reviews are just opinions based on my personal preferences.

Final Rating

2.5/5 ( )
  Nickidemus | Sep 18, 2014 |
Young solicitor Arthur Kipps is sent from his London firm to the far away and isolated Eel Marsh House to retrieve the paperwork of recently deceased client Mrs. Drablow. Kipps puts the anxious warnings from the locals down to the old woman living alone for decades out in the marshes and often cut off from the town, but he soon begins to see and hear a pattern of supernatural events that terrify him.

This story has a long set-up before the scary stuff begins, but once it does it's non-stop ghostly happenings. I think it's set around the 1930's, but it's truly a Gothic, with Kipps being cut off from civilization, with a car or phone. Even his flashlight breaks. ( )
  mstrust | Sep 17, 2014 |
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill; (3 1/2*)

A good story of haunting, The Woman in Black holds the reader's interest. It has everything a good ghost story entails. A dark & aboding house, the eerie marshlands surrounding said house, strange things that "go bump in the night", the small village where no one wishes to speak of the strange goings on out at the house, and of course your innocent who is sent to the house to do some sleuthing work.
Mrs. Alice Drabble of Eel Marsh House is a client of Arthur Kipps' soliciting house in London and when she dies, his employer sends him out to her lonely house on the marsh to dig through her private papers to speed up dealing with her estate.
When Arthur gets to the village he finds no one there will speak with him of the reclusive Mrs. Drabble, her house nor her life. However the man who trundled her groceries & needs out to her house in his pony cart is willing to take him to the house & return for him.
While at the house Arthur hears the most frightful sounds, sees apparitions and literally hears things that "go bump in the night." He is there alone and tries to remain calm and continue with his work but it becomes more and more difficult. As he goes through Mrs. Drabble's papers he finds very little of use until he comes across a bundle of letters regarding a distant relative of Mrs. Drabble's who is unmarried and in the family way. The young lady wishes to keep the baby but doesn't have the means and so the little boy is adopted by the Drabbles. He later comes across legal paperwork that suggests the reasons for the hauntings of Eel Marsh House and the more he learns the more the hauntings continue until Arthur becomes ill in heart, soul & body. He is rescued from the house in a collapsed state and taken to the home of a gentleman he met on the train coming out who says he must remain until he is on the road to recovery. He is attended by the local doctor, fed nourishing broths and that coupled with much bed rest does Arthur much good. He is surprised one day to receive his fiance, Stella, who has come to take him back to London on the train.
They marry soon after and Arthur puts the experience behind him until one day.........one day................
Well, you will have to read the book to discover more of the particulars and the finale. Needless to say I enjoyed this book as I have every Susan Hill I have read. (Mrs. de Winter aside) I like the spare way she writes without throwing in flowery phrasing and unnecessary wording. I found this to be a good read and recommend it for those who enjoy a little spooking and haunting. ( )
2 vote rainpebble | Aug 31, 2014 |
What's a reader to do when a ghost story is the embodiment of "The Ghost Story"? If it ticks off every requirement--old, isolated house; sullen villagers; gloomy weather--does that make it "the best" ghost story? I might once have insisted that, yes, a ghost story that meets all of the criteria (whatever the list might be) is in fact the best of its genre. (The hubris of youth!) Having read Susan Hill's The Woman in Black, I'm forced to concede that perhaps there is more to a ghost story than spooks, moors, and crisp English diction. I'm reminded of the words of a comic book writer, who advised teenagers aspiring to his role, "If you only read comic books, you might write the best comic book ever written, but you'll never write anything different."

The Woman in Black begins, appropriately enough, on a Christmas Eve sometime in the early decades of the twentieth century. Arthur Kipps' second wife and his step-children sit around the fire, telling one another ghost stories. Here we have already satisfied one criterion of a ghost story: It must be set in England. Certainly, every culture in every time and place has spoken of ghosts, but "the best" ghost story can only be set in England. Bonus: By beginning her tale on Christmas Eve, Hill tips her hat to the fine English tradition of telling ghost stories on that most-anticipated evening of the year. More spooky stories by the fire, fewer fat men and elves!

Kipps is agitated as his family's stories grow grislier and more ridiculous. As his children's merriment increases, his declines. Urged by his step-sons to join in the fun, Kipps storms off in a huff. Staring at the clear night sky, he is reminded of events through which he suffered as a younger man, a trauma he has worked hard to put behind him. He resolves to write it down in its entirety, a purge that becomes Hills' larger narrative, the ghost story "proper."

The action commences with Kipps dispatched on legal business to a small village a day's train ride outside of London. Kipps, stymied in his career aspirations, gladly takes on what his elder partner perceives as an imposition. In addition to seeking refuge from his humdrum duties as a solicitor, Kipps flees the London weather, characterized by many days of fog so dense it made travel within the city dangerous. Kipps sallies forth to put in order the estate of the recently deceased Mrs. Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Read those names again: That is some heavy handed foreshadowing going on there.

En route to Eel Marsh House, Kipps encounters what you might expect from the villagers, which is to that they seem to know something about Eel Marsh House, but are unwilling to talk about it, to Kipps' growing frustration. The local lawyer, Kipps' contact, is thrown into paroxysms of fear when, at Mrs. Drablow's funeral, Kipps confesses to having seen the eponymous "Woman in Black." Kipps nevertheless proceeds, as an ambitious and sensible young man is likely to do, to head to Eel Marsh House, which, sitting in the middle of a swamp, can be reached only by a narrow causeway during low tide. One requirement of a successful ghost story is for the protagonist to be headstrong in his foolishness to the point of foolhardiness. He (or she) must tempt fate with his (or her) stupidity. Needless to say, Kipps' visit does not go as planned, and it is at this point, as his adventure derails, that I can so no more about the plot. It is obvious from the first chapter of the book that Kipps survives, albeit as a changed man.

There is much to be said in favor of The Woman in Black. Kipps' voice, channeled via Hill, is spot-on, which is to say very, very English. (I am subconsciously mimicking it as I write this.) Whether or not Kipps really sounds like a turn-of-the-century British professional, I don't know, but it's house I imagine such men would have sounded. In other words, it's believable. So, too, is the tone, which is one of creeping eeriness, abetted by Hill's strength in establishing setting. Hill obviously knows the English countryside and its weather, and lavishes attention on such details. Of course, atmosphere is in some ways the most essential aspect of any ghost story. The author must ease the reader into it, step by step, just as the protagonist, for instance, Kipps, cheerfully whistling his way to his doom. You can't just toss an idiot into a decrepit old house and throw spooks at him. It takes subtlety, and Hill masters that.

In the end, though, even as The Woman in Black meets all of the expectations a reader might have of a ghost story, in doing so it somehow fails to do anything different, and that, perhaps, is the problem. There's a predictability about the plot that is comforting if you want a good, old-fashioned ghost story, but is dissatisfying if you want anything more. The story is also rather tame, although one must keep in mind that it isn't horror in the modern sense, meaning that it isn't dripping with gore. Still, contemporary readers (The Woman in Black was published in 1983) might be desensitized to the novel's quiet dread. Recommended for lovers of the supernatural, but not necessarily for horror aficionados, The Woman in Black is a fine book with which to spend any autumn day. ( )
  LancasterWays | Aug 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
I love this style of writing... very detailed and descriptive. Although some of our students have said that they had a hard time getting through the first few chapters, I was immediately captivated.
 

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan Hillprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Klingberg, OlaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawrence, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
For Pat and Charles Gardner
First words
It was nine-thirty on Christmas Eve.
Quotations
But gradually I discovered for myself the truth of the axiom that a man cannot remain indefinitely in a state of active terror. Either the emotion will increase until, at the prompting of more and more dreadful events and apprehensions, he is so overcome by it that he runs away or goes mad; or he will become by slow degrees less agitated and more in possession of himself.
A man may be accused of cowardice for fleeing away from all manner of physical dangers but when things supernatural, insubstantial and inexplicable threaten not only his safety and well-being but his sanity, his innermost soul, then retreat is not a sign of weakness but the most prudent course.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Arthur Kipps in an up-and-coming London solicitor who is sent to Crythin Gifford-a faraway town in the windswept salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway-to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of a client. Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Mrs. Drablow's house stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystyery, but Kipps is unaware of the tragic secrets that lie hidden behind its sheltered windows. The routine business trip he anticipated quickly takes a horrifying turn when he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images-a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child's scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed in black. (96780307950215)
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307745317, Paperback)

A classic ghost story: the chilling tale of a menacing specter haunting a small English town. Arthur Kipps is an up-and-coming London solicitor who is sent to Crythin Gifford--a faraway town in the windswept salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway--to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of a client, Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Mrs. Drablow's house stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but Kipps is unaware of the tragic secrets that lie hidden behind its sheltered windows. The routine business trip he anticipated quickly takes a horrifying turn when he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images--a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child's scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed all in black.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:26 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Proud and solitary, Eel Marsh House surveys the windswept reaches of the salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway. Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is summoned to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, the house's sole inhabitant, unaware of the tragic secrets which lie hidden behind the shutttered windows.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 11 descriptions

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