Wednesday 18 November 2009

The woman in black (Hill)

I wanted to read The woman in black for a Halloween read, but unfortunately the copy sent by Vintage got lost in the post. In the end, I ended up reading another Susan Hill, The mist in the mirror, which was quite chilling and wet my appetite to read the replacement copy sent by Vintage.

The woman in black was worth waiting for.

The book tells the story of Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor, who is sent to a small town on the east coast called Crythin Gifford to attend the funeral, and to deal with the estate, of a lady called Mrs Alice Drablow, who lived in a house just off the coast that is cut off each day by the tide.

At the funeral, Kipps spots a strange woman, dressed in black, with a pale, wasting face:

"She was dressed in deepest black, in the style of mournoing that had rather gone out of had clearly been dug out of some old wardrobe, for its blackness was a little rusty-looking. A bonnet-type hat covered her head and shaded her face, but although I did not stare, even the swift glance I took of the woman showed me enough to recognise that she was suffering from some terrible wasting disease, for not only was she extremely pale, even more than a contrast with the blackness of her garments could account for, but the skin, and, it seemed, only the thinnest layer of flesh was tautly stretched and strained across her bones, so that it gleamed with a curious blue-white sheen"

In the days that follow, he travels over to the house to sort things out and finds himself the victim of a series of hauntings, strange noises and mysterious disturbances. He again sights the woman in black. Kipps attemps to find out what is going on, but the inhabitants of the town are reluctant to reveal any information and try to dissuade him from being involved.

I won't give any more of the plot away, suffice to say that Kipps discovers the story behind the woman. And in a chilling conclusion himself becomes victimised.

This is the only book that I have read in adulthood which has given me nightmares - I woke up two nights later and had to wake up my boyfriend to reassure me that the wardrobe hadn't become a woman wearing a black veil. He wasn't too impressed and had gone back to sleep by the time I returned from getting a drink of water which led to me scurrying back into bed and hiding under the pillows.


  1. This was definitely disturbing. I thought I was going to have nightmares last night from the book I was reading but luckily didn't. I must see the play of this.

  2. I just got this one on ILL from my library-I can't wait to read it!

  3. I haven't read this one yet (or any Hill) but I can't wait! I have found many books disappointingly unscary, so I look forward to finding out if this one manages to do so.

  4. I read Woman in Black late one night and I live alone. By the end of it I was petrified and dying to go to the loo but was too scared to do so and lay and suffered until daylight! Mist in the mirror equally scary

  5. I haven't read this one yet - although my first experience with Susan Hill left much to be desired. Most of the commenters did suggest I try out one of her scarier books, so hopefully, I'll be giving this one a shot soon!

    PS: Blogspot's giving OpenId trouble again, so I'm using my google account to comment!

  6. oh, that does sound creepy. The play was really frightening. I still haven't read Susan Hill but with so many reviews of her books lately I'm still unsure where to start.

  7. Claire - I don't like books to give me nightmares but it shows how powerful it was. I can imagine that the play might do too.

    Eva - I hope you enjoy it.

    Elaine - oh no, how awful! I could imagine that happening to me.

    Mrs B - I think this one would be a good one to start with.

    Anothercookie - Which Susan Hill did you start with? I think this is her best and classic.

    Jackie - I'll be interested to see how scary you find this!

  8. This scared me too, I think it's one of those books that really plays on your mind, must be down to Hill's excellent writing!

  9. This was, without doubt, the scariest book I've ever read...very well done! My copy came from an independent bookstore in Bath (read it on the flight home), so has extra sentimental value attached.

  10. Dot - it keeps playing on my mind!

    JoAnn - how nice to get a copy in Bath! Doesn't make it any less scary though.

  11. I've never seen that cover art before, I really like it!

    We saw the play at The Fortune Theatre in Covent Garden, the first act was quite harmless and then things get seriously scary! I must give the book a try but hopefully, take a pass on the nightmares. Poor you!

  12. I am so pleased that you loved this... and indeed that it scared you witless. It's one of my favourite books and if you havent seen the play you must. You think the book is scary...

  13. Simon - I would have to brace myself to watch it I think!

    Darlene - it is the latest one I think, just brought out by Vintage.


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