From the first page of this exciting novel I am reminded of the pleasure of reading good literature, of the sensory acclaim of a Charles Dickens or a Henry James. I relaxed into the narrative knowing I should be on edge, expecting the subsequent horrors, but Ms. Hill's writing is simply so superb that relaxing quickly became the order of the day. What a pleasure, also, to encounter a protagonist who suffers from a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, which he acknowledges but of course has no way of putting a title to it.
I am so enjoying this book-similar to Henry James' The Turn of the Screw and Charles Dickens' The Mystery of Edwin Drood, even to Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White, the terror creeps up on us subtly, with silent little cat feet, and we don't know at first it is all around us until we look into the eyes of others, read their expressions, listen to the fluttering in their voices.
But before very long there is a shift of consciousness, subtly yes, even unpredictably, until we find ourselves standing on solid ground just as flimsy as that of Eel Marsh, to which our protagonist, at first a simple and ordinary solicitor in London, repairs on an errand set him by his employer. Out there not only is the weather unpredictable and the tides unalterable, but reality is shifting and mutable-and frightening. Nothing is what it seems-and what seems to be is-terrifying.
The Woman in Black is a novel both to be savoured, for its beauty and poignancy, but also to be raced through, as our hearts' rate speeds up in companionship with the narrator, and his ever-intensifying fear and uncertainty. Altogether a wonderful novel-to read and reread and ponder and enjoy.
The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story (Vintage)