Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Woman In Black by Susan Hill

~ book jacketReview by Jan

This is a book I may not have read if not for our book group, but I am glad that I did. It was first published in the 1980's and is now a major motion picture starring a grown-up Harry Potter. The book is only 164 pages and is beautifully written.

The Woman In Black is a ghost story set in historical England. 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.

I am looking forward to discussing this book at our March meeting!

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