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Review: The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill

The back cover of this short novel says: “What real reader does not yearn, somewhere in the recess of his or her heart, for a really literate, first-class thriller—one that chills the body, but warms the soul with plot, perception, and language at once astute and vivid? In other words, a ghost story written by Jane Austen?” How can you resist a hook like that?

I first read The Woman in Black in 2002 after seeing the play of the same name in London’s West End. The story features a young solicitor named Arthur Kipps who’s dispatched to the north of England to settle the affairs of the recently-deceased Mrs. Drablow, an elderly woman who lived at the remote Eel Marsh House.

The Woman in Black is a ghost story with all the requisite elements: a strange woman dressed in black, a locked room with a rocking chair that won’t stop moving; and the eerie sound of a pony and trap in the fog. It’s one of the creepiest books I’ve read in a long time—Company of Liars may be the exception. There’s no blood here, just a spine-tingling yet subtle mystery. There's really nothing more I can say; this book is perfect.

Also reviewed by: Between the Covers, A Work in Progress, Books I Done Read


Amanda said…
I love it! And endorsed by Jane Austen too! Ok...on TBR pile :)
nbbaker1102 said…
A perfect book, sounds intriguing!
Veronica said…
I also saw the play in London's West End in 2002. Around Christmas time. I was in hgihschool and couldn't close my eyes to sleep for the rest of my Christmas break without hearing that rockingchair! Deliciously chilling. I will definitely need to read the book!
Iliana said…
I echo your thoughts on this one. I love this book. I actually got to see a play based on this novel a couple of years ago and thought that was very well done. If they ever do another showing of it, I'll be there again.
Anonymous said…
I agree! Years later, I still think this was the scariest book I have ever read. So vivid and real. No blood, no monsters just perfectly strung together words. The evening I finished this book, I slept with the light on!
Danielle said…
I read this a few years ago and agree as well--it's one of the few books I've read that actually did feel like a scary ghost story. I would love to have seen the play!

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