In honor of Halloween, we’ll be reviewing ghoulishly scary and spooky books throughout the month of October.
The Woman in Black
Susan Hill (Adult Fiction)
It’s Christmas Eve at Monk’s Piece. Lawyer Arthur Kipps, his wife and children are gathered around the fire telling ghost stories, as is ancient tradition. They all take turns until it comes to Arthur. “Now come, stepfather, your turn. You must know at least one ghost story, stepfather, everyone knows one…” Arthur does know a ghost story. One haunted by a child’s anguished screams, an approaching pony and trap, a moving rocking chair with no occupant, and a mysterious woman in black. A ghost story made even more horrifying and terrible because this story is true…absolutely true.
I wasn’t familiar with Susan Hill before this book, but about twenty pages in, I was so impressed with the eloquent and nuanced writing style, and so immersed in the story, that I wondered if she was English. Sure enough, she is. There is no mistaking a truly adept English or British author. The turns of phrase, the sentence structure, and the painstaking attention to detail without being overly verbose all add up to an exceptionally well-crafted book.
Hill gives us a satisfying horror story which achieves its goal of raising the hairs on your neck and increasing the beats of your heart. By introducing noises in the dark, mysterious brushes against your body, and an invisible presence that always seems to be just right behind you, she goes to the very core of our fears and keeps them tucked into the deepest, darkest corners of our soul—very far away from the light. Hill gives us a gripping and suspenseful story that builds at a steady and progressive pace until the final climax. With one last blow thrown in at the end, it might be best to read this with a torch (flashlight) nearby…just in case.
* Book cover image attributed to www.penguinrandomhouse.com