Susan Hill’s gothic horror book, The Woman in Black, is a perfect late October read. It’s the time of the year when I think about finding ghosts and goblins in my books. I listened to this as an audiobook, read by Paul Ansdell. His narration was spot on and very atmospheric.
Arthur Kipps, an English solicitor, is called to manage the closing of an old woman’s estate. Her large country home is at the edge of a marsh, and in fact named Eel Marsh House. (Eeeeels – yikes!) As he arrives in the town, he senses the locals’ discomfort at the mention of the old woman and her stately home. He thinks perhaps he’s imagining their reaction. He’s a logical man, and yet …
At the funeral services, Arthur notices a woman dressed in black towards the back of the crowd. Beneath her large-brimmed hat, she’s practically skeletal and speaks to no one. And then she’s gone. This is just the first of Arthur’s sightings, and the author ratchets up the suspense as the story continues.
Susan Hill captures the encroaching sense of dread from the marsh, as well as the house, its contents and history. She delivers Arthur from a staid solicitor to a quaking mass of frightened man, emotional and changed forever. The ending twist just about broke my heart.
I understand that Hill’s book has also run as a play to nearly three decades on London’s West End. It’s a movie as well, starring Daniel Radcliffe. While I may not partake of those right away, I’m planning to hunt down some other books by Susan Hill sooner rather than later.