The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Publication Date: 1983
Challenges: Support Your Local Library #8
The Short Version:
Gothic ghost story with all the necessary pieces including huge isolated house, burial grounds, townfolk who won’t talk, foggy marshes, and a young lawyer who doesn’t believe in ghosts.
Why I Read It:
I found out about this book when Raych at Books I Done Read reviewed it and mentioned that not many libraries had it. Of course, I immediately checked, discovered that my library had a copy and placed a request. I read and enjoyed the first of Susan Hill’s Simon Serrailler detective series, but had no idea she’d written so many earlier books including this Victorian tale that was in my library’s young adult section.
This is a fairly short book that is a quick read. It opens on Christmas Eve. Arthur Kipps is at home with his second wife and stepchildren and grandchildren. As they start sharing their traditional ghost stories, Arthur listens but refuses to participate despite insistent encouragement from the boys. Later, after the holidays, Arthur shares with the reader his own ghost story as he finally writes the it down. Many years ago as a young lawyer, Arthur was sent to settle the estate of a longtime client of his firm. The woman’s isolated house is in a marshy area that can only be reached by a causeway at low tide. When Arthur arrives in the nearby town, he finds the locals reluctant to talk about the woman. At her funeral Arthur sees a young woman who intrigues him, but when he mentions this to the local land agent he’s shocked to see the man appear frightened.
This is a quick read, and although I wasn’t able to read it in one sitting, it could easily be done. Hill does an excellent job of gradually building the tension and creating an atmosphere. It’s a wonderful little gothic tale that would be perfect for a Halloween type of seasonal read. The Victorian era setting along with the slowly revealed secrets and the damp, foggy isolated setting are perfect elements in this spooky, but not scary little tale. I really think the only reason it’s in the young adult section of my library is that it’s the perfect slumber party ghost story.