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 fashion...it 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.