Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Woman In Black by Susan Hill

book jacketReview by Jan:

Every once in a while I will read a book that I think might appeal to literary fiction readers, and so I will post my review on both our popular fiction and literary blogs.  This is the March read for our Not Your Ordinary Book Group.  We do have copies available if you want to become a member, both in book and Nook format.  Please contact us if you are interested.  New members are always welcome.

Now onto my review:
The Woman In Black is a ghost story set in historical England.  At only 164 pages, it is a shorter novel, but beautifully written and well worth a read.  It was first published in the 1980's and is now a major motion picture starring a grown-up Daniel Radcliff. 

The setting is both lovely and eerie. There are no graphic elements in this book, but rather more of an emotional pull toward the character's plight and the mystery surrounding the woman in black. Arthur Kipps, the main character of this story, is a solicitor sent to a small country town to settle the affairs of a deceased client, Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Arthur becomes increasingly aware that the residents of this country town are keeping secrets about Eel Marsh House, and avoid his questions when asked. When Arthur notices an emaciated woman dressed in black at Alice Drablow's funeral, the residents do not wish to discuss her appearance, or even acknowledge who she might be. Determined to complete his task, Arthur sets out to Alice Drablow's home, Eel Marsh House, a solitary stone structure built on a causeway of marshes; travel is only achievable when the tide is down, leaving Arthur deserted to discover the secrets of the house and the mystery behind the woman in black.

Small spoiler alert: I will say that I truly enjoyed this book, even though I normally prefer a story with a happy ending---even I can step outside my happy-endings-box every once in a while! :o)

The story carries an emotional heaviness made more poignant by the solitary setting. The author's descriptions of the environment are perfect. It almost reminds me of a Hitchcock style story combined with the dialog of a Brontë novel. The suspense and mystery elements are well paced. Toward the middle of the story, however, I became very aware that this mysterious woman in black was not going to find happiness, that there wasn't going to be a benevolent light at the end of a proverbial tunnel for her to float away in peace; I knew the ending would be sad, as it needed to be to justify the burden of fear carried by Arthur Kipps and the other characters of the story.

As always, hope to see you in our library someday soon,

Request The Woman In Black from the Bangor Public Library