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on August 17, 2007
My first experience of The Woman in Black was at the age of 12. It was Christmas Eve, and there was an adaptation of the story on the television that night. My family wanted to watch Legal Eagles on another channel, but I was firm in my resolve - I had to see The Woman in Black. Eventually, I won the argument and we all settled down to watch the chilling tale on a cold Christmas Eve night. I have to admit at 12 years - old, this was a mistake; I was terrified. I had never seen anything quite as frightening before or since.

The Woman in Black is now enjoying a revival as a stage play being performed on the West End. With this knowledge, I recently decided to face my childhood fear and read the book...I was not disappointed.

The book begins on Christmas Eve (as all good ghost stories should!), when a family is gathered around the fire telling each other ghastly tales of spectres and spirits. The patriarch of the family, Arthur Kipps, has remained tight lipped as he listens to the frivolous and gratuitous fables that are pouring out of his family's mouths. When finally pressed to see if he has a story to tell, he reacts angrily, not wanting to tell the tale that has haunted his dreams for decades - for his tale is far more disturbing, far more terrifying and, most shockingly, his story is completely true.

The premise is far from original: Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor in a London law firm, is asked to attend the funeral of Mrs Drablow. While Kipps attends the funeral at the little, seaside town of Crythin Griffin, he has been asked to go through any papers that Mrs. Drablow has left behind in attempt to find a benefactor, as she has no living children. Kipps travels to the town, grateful for the opportunity, and not knowing what he will find there. And this is where the story begins to stand apart from its often-used classic scenario.

When Kipps reaches the town, he discovers the Ell marsh (Mrs. Drablow's house) is separated from the town by a narrow causeway and when the tide is in, anyone who occupies the house is totally isolated from the rest of the world and the safety and reassurance that the living offer. While there, the woman in black appears to Kipps only a handful of times, but each time more terrifying than the last, with the malevolence and sense of danger increasing with her every visit. Kipps' anxiety at seeing her increases until he is terrified of the harm she may do.

The Woman in Black is a gripping tale that will have its readers on the edge of their seat. If I have one criticism, it is the final appearance of the woman in black and that her sinister intentions seem rushed in the last few pages of the book. Otherwise, the book is paced to perfection, but the ending comes all too quickly as up until this point the book has built tension with every glimpse of this nefarious apparition. In the end, this robs the reader of the uneasy feeling that readers of this sort of novel crave!
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on March 6, 2012
I watched the movie with Daniel Radcliffe first, and was taken by the intelligence of the suspense. In a day and age of Saw movies which are not much more than "gore porn", it was refreshing to see something that was scary in it's subtleties. Because I enjoyed the film so much, I purchased the book. I would say that both media forms improved upon the other, or perhaps what I could say is... where the book lacked, the movie made up, and reading the book after the movie allowed me to appreciate the better parts of the original written form.

It's a great book... period appropriate language paints a haunting picture in the mind's eye. It really is a good old fashioned spooky tale... I definitely kept my eyes peeled for the woman in black as I went to bed each night ;)
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on January 10, 2013
Susan Hill's "The Woman in Black" gripped me from the beginning as I could empathise with the young solicitor, Arthur Kripps, who has to travel out to a misty and murky island towards the home of the now deceased owner of Eel Marsh House, a rambling and deliciously atmospheric house in which, alone, he must rifle through papers to settle the estate of the deceased.

His initial experiences suggest of a troubled presence and unquiet souls, the atmosphere brilliantly conjured and as the tension mounts as to what malevolent spirit might harm him for his investigations, so also the sense of jeopardy as engulfing as the swelling mists mounts still more when he has to return to the house.

As the isolated dwelling is on a strip of land surrounded by the sea for much of the day and only accessible at lowest tide, the reader wonders whether, on his return, Kripps may not be so lucky to get back to 'civilisation' at all, before something unspeakable befalls him for probing into matters which other souls may have felt better left untouched.

Gore free, yet in the subtlety of its suggestion, I have to confess that I found it a trifle difficult to avoid the temptation to chew off something as unsavoury as fingernail - perhaps the trifle would have been preferable, particularly with Christmas had been looming?
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 6, 2012
First Sentence: It was nine-thirty on Christmas Eve.

It’s a simple-enough assignment. Solicitor Arthur Kipps is sent to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Instead, nothing is simple or what it appears. The house is isolated at the end of a causeway and accessible only when the tide permits. The townspeople are secretive and frightened, the longer Arthur stays at the house, the more ominous become. Then he sees the ghostly lady in black.

This is definitely a thing-that-go-bump-in-the-night book and so wonderfully British. I knew it was a ghost story when I started. Boy, is it ever.

It starts easily enough. Kipps is an interesting character who, it appears, suffers from the then unrecognized SAD (seasonal affective disorder), so going to Eel Marsh House isn’t exactly the best environment for him. Then slowly, “things” start happening.

In the best tradition of classic horror writers, Hill draws you into the story until, as with the marsh, you can’t escape. You’re not certain you should continue reading into the night, but you can’t put it down either. Some, I see, have complained about the ending, which I agree is a bit abrupt, but it is also very effective.

“The Woman is Black” is an very good ghost story that should be read in bright daylight. Otherwise, I don’t guarantee a good night’s sleep.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (Suspense-Arthur Kipps-England-Victorian) – VG+
Hill, Susan – Standalone
Vintage Books, ©1983
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on September 26, 2003
The most similar book I can compare this to is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Like that book, The Woman in Black starts peacefully and builds up to a frightening crescendo that will "haunt" you long after you put the book down. Another similarity in the books is the tremendous sense of atmosphere. Eel Marsh House, where the haunting takes place, is set off by itself in flat, bleak, marshy wetlands and is connected to drier land by a single causeway, which becomes completely covered by water when the tide is high. When the protagonist, the young and foolishly stubborn lawyer Arthur K., sets off to spend a few days sorting out old documents by himself in the isolated mansion, you just want to scream, "Are you crazy? Don't stay there overnight, you idiot!" I particularly liked the way the spectral happenings were presented. There is no blood, no gore, just a brooding sense of evil and mystery. I also enjoyed the relationships Arthur establishes with the kindly Samuel Daily, a local landowner, and the little dog Spider that Samuel lends to him to keep him company in his ill-advised sojourn to the haunted house. All in all, a wonderfully-written ghost story that would appeal to those who find Stephen King's more lurid and less subtle books a bit distasteful.
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on July 27, 2014
I picked up this book after coming across the movie. Normally people would say that the movie does not do the novel justice or is not portrayed as well as one imagined it should be. In this case, I would say that they did an excellent job of filtering through the language. The Woman in Black is a good story with a twist that I certainly never expected, especially after seeing the movie. However the language is complex and the grammar is rather strained with text that is run-on sentences filling every page. It took me a while to get used to the writing style and personally an entire paragraph with two sentences filled with multiple 'and' and commas can get confusing. Still its a great story, just be prepared to give your reading a double-take.
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on June 17, 2002
I first saw this as a Broadway play, and it has been to this date the only theatre piece that gave me nightmares. I could not wait to read the novel, and just as the play was, it scared me senseless.
The novel plays heavily on atmosphere and mood. Susan Hill brings the black moors surrounding the Eel Marsh Hosue to life with vivid imagery. It's a "beautiful" setting for the frightening ghost that lives there. The characters are incredibly realistic and interesting to follow. You feel for Arthur Kipps in his trials and tribulations dealing with the Woman in Black in Eeel Marsh House. All in all, a wonderful ghost story that seems as if it should've been written by Jane Austen.
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on July 15, 2003
This is a great ghost story. I was introduced to it after seeing the stage-play at my local theatre. The play had the audience screaming and I just had to see how well they had translated the book.
The play is pretty faithful to the book and I urge you to see it if its ever around your area. As for the book it is well written and very chilling. I was gripped from the start, even though I knew what was happening. The story unfolds nicely and builds the mystery and horror up to a crescendo that almost leaves you gasping and then when you think its all over... well I won't spoil it - go and read it for yourself.
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on July 13, 2004
This short novel is a skillful modern imitation of an early 20th century English ghost story. The setting and language are convincing; the atmosphere of the isolated mansion is made suitably creepy without resorting to Hollywood-style exaggeration. On the other hand, the early parts of the story move slowly, and the young male narrator seems very naive. The illustrations, while competently done, lack the dark, threatening quality that one would expect. The cover art, though intriguing, does not seem connected to the story.
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on May 21, 2004
This is singly THE best supernautral thriller i have ever had the pleasure reading. i decided to read this book after seeing the play in London, West-end. The play had everyone screeming and constantly looking around themselves. The story is the most sping tingling tale i have ever read. It is relatively short but packs a punch! the portrayal of the Woman in Black makes it seem like she is in he room with you. WARNING!! you will prbably get nightmares after reading this book. most people i know have.! a must read
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