The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story (The Woman in Black #1) by Susan Hill

The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story (The Woman in Black #1)
By Susan Hill
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN13: 9780307745316
Pages: 164
Genre: Paranormal/Classic Fiction


Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor in London, is summoned to Crythin Gifford to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, and to sort through her papers before returning to London. It is here that Kipps first sees the woman in black and begins to gain an impression of the mystery surrounding her. From the funeral he travels to Eel Marsh House and sees the woman again; he also hears the terrifying sounds on the marsh.

Despite Kipps’s experiences he resolves to spend the night at the house and fulfil his professional duty. It is this night at Eel Marsh House that contains the greatest horror for Kipps. Kipps later discovers the reasons behind the hauntings at Eel Marsh House. The book ends with the woman in black exacting a final, terrible revenge.


The Woman in Black is one of those rare instances of watched film before reading book. It doesn’t happen often. And I feel confident in saying that in this case it had no affect on my experience. Admittedly, it has been several years since I have watched the film, but still I think that my previous statement would hold true regardless of time passed. I may re-watch this weekend to test that (no scratch that – nonhusband is leaving for week, no ghost stories. Probably will anyways. I live to torment myself apparently.)

Told through the recounting of a very pragmatic narrator Arthur Kipps, this is a classic tale of the paranormal. Attending the funeral of Mrs. Drablow and her estate affairs at Eel Marsh house, the young solicitor is visited by an unwelcome guest, the Woman in Black. As Mr. Kipps discovers the purpose of this visit and its significance, it soon comes to a conclusion in one final moment that will forever alter his life. Now, years later he has decided to commit the events that transpired during his time in Crythin Gifford to pen and tell his story.

“I have sat here at my desk, day after day, night after night, a blank sheet of paper before me, unable to lift my pen, trembling and weeping too.”

I find it important to mention that while this is a dark and eerie tale, it moves at a very slow but not intolerable pace. This is not a thriller. We are gifted with a writing style that is elegant and effortlessly transports the reader into Victorian era England, setting the stage for a wonderfully traditional ghost story. The author utilizes all elements available to  construct a remarkably atmospheric and melancholic read.

Admittedly this is not the “terrifying” read one might expect. Shelving it as horror is an undoubted stretch. But do not discredit its merit as far as ghost stories are concerned. First published in 1983, the author has brilliantly established the air of a true classic read. While it does not harbor the gruesome components we have come to know and expect from such a story today, if you allow yourself to be fully immersed within the successful world building and story telling, you soon discover that the underlying plot of revenge is haunting enough in its own right.

“It was true that the ghastly sounds I had heard through the fog had greatly upset me but far worse was what emanated from and surrounded these things and arose to unsteady me, an atmosphere, a force – I do not exactly know what to call it – of evil and uncleanness, of terror and suffering, of malevolence and bitter anger”

Cleverly narrated and written to read as having been authentically conceived in the 19th century, there is a lot to be appreciated and admired within the pages of this chilling tale of revenge.  And therein lies the real accomplishment of The Woman in Black. This somewhat Gothic tale is likely to find a welcomed home among the many fans of Poe and more classic tales of fright. A slow burn with a dramatic ending, I can only recommend experiencing The Woman in Black personally to fully understand all that it has to offer. This is what ghost stories are made of.

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58 thoughts on “The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story (The Woman in Black #1) by Susan Hill

  1. How was Radcliffe in the movie? I watched him in Horns and have to admit, I don’t particularly want to watch him again. Not that I’m a Potterhead, but I just didn’t care for the experience.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I really should give this book a go! It was rather a laugh when I saw the film we went with another couple and my friend and I were stereotypical girls squealing and giggling at all the jumpy parts while the guys rolled their eyes at our immaturity!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t remember the last time I read a traditional ghost story…maybe Stephen King’s Bag of Bones many, many years ago. I actually like the idea of that and that you called it atmospheric…love those types of stories! Thanks for sharing this one Danielle, I’m going to keep it in mind:)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review. I liked both the film and the book, in their own way each is very enjoyable.

    Definitely agree about the pacing, it’s sedate but never boring and it is often creepy and atmospheric, which works well with the slower pace.

    Totally agree about the dramatic ending too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Glad you ended up enjoying this one, Danielle! I am definitely going to have to read it some day. Not only because I love the movie but because you said it was great for fans of Poe (he’s one of my favorites) and from the quotes you included it does seem to have that dark air. Now I actually want to go watch the movie again because it’s been so long lol. Anyway, great review as always!! 😁♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I watched it again last night! It was a little less creepy after having read the book, but still very enjoyable. The narration in the book is clever in the fact that the author transports the reader back in time so effortlessly. I hope you make time soon 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great review! This has been on my TBR forever! Really must try to read some of the older ones before I add more new ones… I haven’t seen the film, but I did see the theatre play many years ago. I remember finding it rather disappointingly unscary, so was intrigued that you didn’t find the book overly scary either. But as you say a good plot can be satisfying even if it doesn’t make us shriek in terror…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This actually sounds like a “horror” book that I could handle! I like that you mentioned that it isn’t as gruesome as horror books and movies have become these days… I find often that the psychological elements can be more terrifying then all the gore.

    Great review Danielle!

    Liked by 1 person

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