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The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story [Paperback]

Susan Hill

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  148 reviews
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT ghost story Oct. 22 2011
By AJ - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
No neat and tidy endings here, folks. Just strap yourselves in for a great ghost story, complete with nighttime hauntings galore. This is one of those stores that might keep you up at night, just envisioning everything again and again. The author does a great job of making the reader feel like he or she is there with this young attorney - suffering through the whole thing.

Enjoy! I'm now looking forward to the movie next year - shame they couldn't have released it around Halloween...
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Ghost Story Jan. 27 2012
By Miss Bonnie - Published on Amazon.com
'Yes, I had a story, a true story, a story of haunting and evil, fear and confusion, horror and tragedy.


Arthur Kipps is a junior solicitor from London who has been asked by his employer to attend the funeral of Mrs. Alice Drablow in Crythin Gifford. He must also visit her residence in order to collect any important paperwork that she may have been left behind. Arthur sees the woman in black at Mrs. Drablow's funeral and again at her residence at Eel Marsh House. She doesn't appear to be a malevolent spirit so Arthur doesn't worry too much and decides to spend the night at the house so that he can quickly finish his work and return to London. But that night, Arthur begins to hear unexplainable sounds and worries that he may have underestimated the woman in black.

'...piercing through the surface of my dreams, came the terrified whinnying of the pony and the crying and calling of that child over and over, while I stood, helpless in the mist, my feet held fast, my body pulled back, and while behind me, though I could not see, only sense her dark presence, hovered the woman.'

I quite enjoyed this quick little read and am glad I finally got around to reading it. I love ghost stories even though I tend to scare quite easily... and this book was no exception. The writing was beautiful and vividly creepy and definitely manages to get under your skin even though the real scary parts don't even start till the latter half of the book. The descriptions were spot on and the whole book is simply eerie even though, in thinking back to it, nothing real huge actually happens. The ghost doesn't come alive and smother him in his sleep or glue the windows shut or anything absurd like that. Nevertheless I was frightened enough to have to ask my boyfriend to walk upstairs with me to our darkened bedroom after I was finished. He still makes fun of me for that.

Enjoying it as much as I did, I still didn't give it 5 stars and the only reason for that was because of the ending. It left a bit to be desired for me and was a bit too abrupt for my liking.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtlety of Terror -Lyrically Beautiful Prose Jan. 10 2012
By Mallory Anne-Marie Haws - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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)
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Haunting of Eel Marsh House Feb. 27 2012
By Linda Pagliuco - Published on Amazon.com
Having seen the recent movie version of The Woman in Black, I decided to reread the book and compare the two on certain points. The novel by Susan Hill is a classic English gothic ghost story, and it holds up very well without all the elements, such as the dying children and the menacing villagers, which were added to the screenplay. One of the advantages that the original version possesses is that the narration places the reader inside the mind of Arthur Kipps, the young solicitor who attempts to settle the estate of the recently deceased, reclusive mistress of Eel Marsh House. In the film, viewers are led to wonder what could possibly induce Arthur to return to the house after his first frightening experiences, but the reader can follow the reasoning process that brings him back. The language is appropriately period (very early 20th century British), and Author Hill very skilfully conjured up the perfect setting for her tale, a remote house on an island that is surrounded by the sea for half of each day, accessible only when the tide is at its lowest. In the finest tradition of the genre, the hauntings do not result in anything gruesome or gory, relying instead upon the psychological power of suggestion and small, unexplained perceptions.

I enjoyed the movie with Daniel Radcliff, and was so drawn into the book that I read it all (160 pages) in one sitting. They're both entertaining and worth experiencing, and not a little creepy.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic ghost story with lots of chills...And what atmosphere! Feb. 5 2012
By M. Secaur - Published on Amazon.com
Okay, I'll admit it. When it comes to books, I'm a bit of a snob. Perfectly content on a heavy diet of Dickens, Leroux, Collins, and the like, I very rarely venture into the arena of modern literature. Most fiction writers alive today just don't interest me as much as those who penned in the 19th century. Maybe it's because I find that reading about the present-day is a snooze-fest in itself, or that writing styles today are somewhat sloppy in comparison, or maybe it's just that most authors nowadays seem to have no idea how to craft a genuinely good story.

With the new movie just released, I picked up "The Woman in Black" out of genuine curiosity, but with a fair amount of skepticism along, too. Don't get me wrong, I love ghost stories and mystery novels, but this one could have just as easily turned out to be a major let-down and left me wondering why I bothered to read it in the first place. I steeled myself in anticipation of a disappointment, but from the very first page I was instantly transported to a completely different time, completely different place, and couldn't put it down until it was all over.

Author Susan Hill is a master at creating a totally enveloping sense of atmosphere, as well as crafting an expert storyline. Her prose is intentionally old-fashioned without being pretentious, and helps to enforce the classic ghost-story feel. She writes so skillfully in first person that one can't help but feel like they're with the character every step of the way; talk about drawing you right into the story!

Without intending to be boring, I'd like to give a brief synopsis: Set somewhere around the turn of the century, 24-year-old lawyer Arthur Kipps has been called out to the remote English village of Crythin Gifford to sort out the papers of a recently deceased client. When he arrives, he finds the townspeople to be reluctant to speak of the former inhabitants of Eel Marsh House, and even more loath to direct him to the house itself, which is cut off from the main village by the Nine Lives Causeway, which is swallowed up by the sea at high tide. Soon after arriving, he becomes aware of various supernatural occurrences and learns that everything may not be as cut-and dried as he originally supposed.

In short, this story has all the ingredients for a good old-fashioned ghost-story: a heroic protagonist, a gaggle of secretive villagers, a creepy old house shrouded in mystery (or at least a marsh), a vengeful ghost, and a long-hidden secret to tie it all together. I'd classify this book as more of a psychological thriller or mystery novella than a horror story, though the new film adaptation begs to differ slightly, showing quite graphically what the novel only hints at.

Though the titular character herself never appears for more than a brief moment or two, her presence permeates each page exactly the way a good ghost should. Even though you can't always see her, you know she's there, lurking over Arthur's shoulder, waiting for her chance to spring upon you and scare you out of your wits. I'm not ashamed to admit I had trouble sleeping the night I finished the book!

In my opinion, what really makes this comparatively sedate thriller so effective is that it hinges on the power of suggestion and the human mind's tendency to pick up on what is implied rather than the explicit. You start to see things that aren't there, hear things when all is silent. This form of exposition makes you doubt your own senses -- a surefire way to induce chills!

Having just seen the film, I can say that while the movie is an all-out creep-fest, the book itself is a little more of a creep-up-on you kind of scary, where nothing really explosive happens, but it's just as frightening and nail-biting an experience just waiting for it to happen. Those looking for a gory, gruesome, truly-horrific ghost story may be sorely disappointed, but for those who enjoy the more low-key, psychological thrillers in the tradition of J. S. Le Fanu and M. R. James will find treasures galore here. Highly recommended.

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